Tom Brady leading Patriots in early surge that has 2007-like feel

Brady and Hurns earn game balls

ESPN reporters Mike Reiss and Mike DiRocco stick to the offense in handing out their game balls, rewarding Tom Brady and Allen Hurns.

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Running back LeGarrette Blount's smile said it all after the New England Patriots' 51-17 win Sunday over the Jacksonville Jaguars. It was the look of a player who knows he is taking handoffs from an all-timer.

“It’s crazy to be playing with the best quarterback to play the game,” Blount said. “And he’s not done.”

Not done?

Tom Brady, it seems, is just getting started in what has the early look of a 2007-style Patriots vengeance tour. That was the season, post-Spygate, when Brady played late into games and the Patriots weren’t content to just beat opponents. They wanted to pummel them.

One of the players on that team, safety Rodney Harrison, said last week that he saw a "special look" in Brady's eyes that reminded him of past Super Bowl seasons. Harrison believes Brady is "out for vengeance" this year.

On Sunday, Brady became just the fourth quarterback in NFL history to reach 400 career touchdowns. He finished 33-of-42 for 358 yards, with two touchdowns and no interceptions. In a shades-of-2007 decision, he stayed on the field for a 17-play, fourth-quarter touchdown drive that lasted 9 minutes, 47 seconds and put the Patriots ahead 51-10.

Brady is now 96-of-133 for 1,112 yards, with nine touchdowns and no interceptions this season, which ties Peyton Manning (2010) and Don Meredith (1966) for the second-most touchdown passes without an interception in the first three games of an NFL season.

This all means it’s not a stretch to say that at age 38, Brady has never been better -- not that he’s about to confirm it.

“You know, I’m just happy we’re 3-0, so thank you,” he said.

With that, Brady walked away from the interview podium after about four minutes Sunday and left his teammates to do most of the talking. They were happy to do so.

“The fact he’s won four Super Bowls and has been to six, the fashion he wins them in, the MVPs and the kind of season he’s having right now is kind of piling on top of that legacy,” said Blount, one of the team’s top performers Sunday, with three second-half touchdowns. “He’s only been on one team, and his team is consistently one of the best teams to play every season, and he’s one of the main reasons why.”

Blount relayed that a part of Brady’s greatness is what he does to those around him.

“He’s fearless, a competitor. He goes out there and does his thing, firing everyone up, making sure they’re ready to play, and he gives them a lot of confidence," he said. "He tells everyone, ‘Just make sure you don’t ever take your foot off the gas. Keep going.’ That’s the mentality he has, and it’s contagious.”

It shows.

Receiver Julian Edelman is one of Brady’s closest friends, and he called his effort Sunday “par for the course.” The bar has been set that high.

“He works his tail off, and everything he does, you understand why,” he said. “It’s great seeing him lead our team.”

What stood out Sunday was Brady’s work in the middle of the field; he completed 24 of 25 passes between the numbers, according to ESPN’s game charting. That’s the best completion percentage on such throws by any quarterback in the past 10 seasons (minimum 20 attempts), which covers 1,321 quarterback games entering Sunday.

After Brady connected with receiver Danny Amendola on a 1-yard score late in the second quarter, the crowd began chanting “Brad-y! Brad-y! Brad-y!” Afterward, he acknowledged the support, which also came from the owner’s box.

“Tom, as I’ve said before, is the greatest quarterback of all time,” team president Jonathan Kraft said during his pregame radio show on 98.5 The Sports Hub.

Kraft then described Brady's unique ability to decipher a defense before the snap.

“When you look at what he’s done so far this season, for a guy at 38 years old who has accomplished all he’s done, to clearly be still so driven and so motivated, you add that to his intellectual abilities on the field and then his historical legacy of performance, those all combined are why he’s the greatest quarterback of all time," he said. "And I don’t even think it’s a discussion.”