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Sunday, December 26, 2010
Tom Brady is the clear-cut MVP

By Tim Graham

Brady
Tom Brady has thrown for 3,701 yards and 34 TDs with four interceptions this season. His rating is 109.8.
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- As I approached New England Patriots running back Fred Taylor at his locker stall, I prefaced a question about Tom Brady by wondering if anything new can be said about one of the greatest quarterbacks in football history.

Taylor shrugged with an expression that indicated he doubted there have been praises left unsung. There wasn't much more to add.

And then Taylor compared Brady to a super robot from a Japanese science-fiction cartoon.

"I've played with a lot of quarterbacks in my career," Taylor said. "If you put all of them together and form a Voltron, they might be as good as he is."

So apparently Brady can keep pushing the limits of description.

Brady wasn't prolific but was nonetheless in command Sunday, guiding the Patriots to a 34-3 pillaging of the Buffalo Bills in snow-sprinkled Ralph Wilson Stadium.

The Patriots clinched their eighth AFC East title in 10 seasons, and Brady cemented himself as the league's most valuable player ahead of Michael Vick.

By any measure, the MVP discussion comes down to Brady versus Vick. True enough, Vick is enjoying a magical season, the best of his career. His controversial history, however, is what sets him up as an inspirational story of redemption that skews the debate.

"He's having a pretty good season, but it's been magnified because of the stuff that he's done," Taylor said. "He's handled himself well, though."

Brady's campaign could rank as the most impressive of his decorated career. He's not approaching the obnoxious stats he posted in 2007, but circumstances are what set this season apart for the three-time champion and five-time Pro Bowler.

Brady's the conductor of the NFL's most dominant offense. They've flourished minus Randy Moss and with Wes Welker's knee still in recovery for much of the year. And then there's rookie tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez and castoff running backs BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead.

The Patriots aren't that dynamic spread offense that operates out of the shotgun anymore. They've morphed into another team.

"There wasn't any lapse," Bills linebacker Paul Posluszny said. "The transition was seamless from one right to the other.

"When they had Moss, you had to worry about him so much as the deep threat. Now, the Patriots pick you apart a little at a time, working their way down the field."

And that's the scariest part. If you're a New York Jets, Miami Dolphins or Bills fan waiting around for the Patriots to go through a rebuilding phase, then you've already missed your chance. It happened this year.

Brady has carried a team with a flawed defense to the league's best record and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. The Patriots rank at or near the bottom of the NFL in several defensive categories and have one of the all-time worst third-down defenses.

The Patriots are on pace to allow 5,987 yards. Comcast SportsNet New England reporter Tom E. Curran pointed out this week that teams that have allowed 6,000 yards since the turn of the century have gone a combined 80-179, with no winning records or playoff appearances among them.

Why are the Patriots the anomaly?

Brady.

Green-Ellis and Woodhead moved the offense Sunday. They rushed for a combined 197 yards and one touchdown.

But there was no doubt who was in control. Brady's numbers were modest because they didn't need to be garish. The Bills committed seven turnovers.

Brady left the game one possession into the fourth quarter and with the game locked up. He completed 15 of his 27 passes for 140 yards and three touchdowns -- two to Gronkowski -- with no interceptions.

Brady has completed 66 percent of his passes for 3,701 yards and 34 touchdowns with four interceptions. He owns a 109.8 passer rating.

Brady broke Bernie Kosar's 19-year-old record for consecutive attempts without an interception. Brady is at 319 passes and counting since he threw a pair of interceptions against the Baltimore Ravens on Oct. 17.

He has gone nine straight games without an interception, and the Patriots have gone an NFL-record seven games in a row without a turnover of any kind. He has notched at least two touchdown passes and no interceptions in an NFL-record eight straight games.

"What he does, nothing is shocking," Patriots center Dan Koppen said.

Brady has thrown fewer than eight interceptions only twice in his career: his rookie season when he played in one game, and in 2008 when he threw 11 passes before undergoing reconstructive knee surgery.

With nothing left on the line, Brady likely won't air it out in the regular-season finale against the Miami Dolphins at Gillette Stadium. He should finish with the second-lowest interception percentage in NFL history. He's at 0.84 percent. Damon Huard holds the record at 0.41 percent (one interception on 244 attempts) in 2006.

You probably could throw Huard into that Voltron assembly of Taylor's and it still wouldn't measure up to Brady.

"Sometimes you have to choose your words right when you talk about him," Taylor said. "He's just special."