Sunday, October 18, 2009
Updated: October 19, 12:10 PM ET
Now that's more like it
By Mike Reiss
FOXBOROUGH -- Tom Brady was studying more than the game plan Thursday. He also had the weather forecast on his mind.
The New England Patriots had hoped to attack the Tennessee Titans where they were most vulnerable: the secondary. They planned to spread the field with receivers and breathe life into a passing game that had yet to fire on all cylinders. Then Brady saw the forecast, which called for unseasonably cool temperatures, high winds and a wintry mix.
"[I was] kind of pissed," he said.
But when Brady took the field for warm-ups Sunday, the snow falling and the wind swirling, his emotions took an unexpected turn. He thought to himself: "This is football. This is how it should be."
And after a sizzling performance in which he set the NFL record for touchdown passes in a quarter with five, it seemed fair to say something else:
This is Brady. This is how it should be.
"He was kind of back to his old self," receiver Wes Welker said.
This was Brady's best performance since returning from torn ligaments in his left knee, his pinpoint accuracy returning, as well as the lethal long strikes to Randy Moss in a 59-0 pummeling of the visiting Titans. He finished 29-of-34 for 380 yards and a career-high-tying six touchdowns in just 2½ quarters.
The second quarter, in particular, was off the charts, with touchdown connections to Randy Moss (40 and 28 yards), Wes Welker (30, 5) and Kevin Faulk (38). Brady had 345 yards passing in the first half, setting the Patriots' record for most passing yards in a half. His previous best was 291 against Miami (Oct. 21, 2007).
So much for the nasty weather affecting the passing game, as the Patriots improved to 11-0 all time in snowy games in Foxborough (7-0 under Brady).
"You know, some days out there when it's snowy like that, it's actually an advantage for the offense," said Brady, who moved his hand on the ball and pushed it more to control it in the wet conditions. "Today was one of those days because we had good footing and it's just fun to be a part of it."
It helped that the Titans were without their starting cornerbacks, Cortland Finnegan and Nick Harper, forcing them to start two rookies. Nickelback Vincent Fuller was also out, so Titans safety Chris Hope figured the Patriots "would take advantage of a secondary that has been battered and bruised. Against one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game, and probably one of the greatest receivers to play the game, it was an opportunity for them to exploit that."
That's exactly how it unfolded, with the previously up-and-down air attack finding its groove. Brady now has 25 career 300-yard passing games
"I think it was good for all of us," said Brady, who acknowledged earlier in the week that the offense was still searching for its identity. "I think every week we're learning something more about ourselves and what we need to do. There's no doubt a game like this can really give you a lot of confidence. We've always been a confident team, but I think we've been a disappointed team this year, not performing the way that we expected to."
Brady said he was unaware that he had set the NFL record for most touchdown passes in a quarter as he was ringing up five in the second. The 45-0 halftime lead also set a new NFL record.
The Patriots established a number of other franchise marks, including most points in a game (59), most points in a half (45), most points in a quarter (35), and most total net yards in a game (619).
Brady, who has now won 19 straight starts at home, was happy to finally see the opportunities result in production. For an offense in search of its calling card, it was a decisive, record-setting step in the right direction.
It all started with Brady, who looked like his old self once again.
"Under the conditions, he played really well," Welker said. "He showed it tonight."
Mike Reiss covers the Patriots for ESPN Boston. You can follow him on Twitter or leave a question for his weekly mailbag.