Sunday, January 10, 2010
Brady suffers first home playoff loss
By Chris Forsberg
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- On the heels of the worst playoff game of his career, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was offered the chance to deliver one more out route when asked to divulge the full extent of the injuries he played with during the 2009 campaign.
Brady might not have been able to avoid the Baltimore rush Sunday -- after being sacked three times and pressured into three interceptions in a 33-14 loss to the Ravens in an AFC wild-card matchup at Gillette Stadium -- but he nimbly sidestepped the questions about his health.
It seems after recovering from the left knee injury that sacked his 2008 season, Brady truly has done away with the crutches.
"I think we all deal with injuries, we really do," he said. "There's not a guy in that locker room who's not banged up, and we all just fight through it, and that's part of playing football. It's really a physical game.
"To see [wide receiver Sam] Aiken go down today and hurt [his head] like that. I mean, that's scary stuff. I'm able to walk off the field -- something I didn't do last year -- and I think that's really a blessing for all of us as players. We all deal with things that bother us during the week, but in the end, we're still out there playing."
Brady completed 23 of 42 passes for 154 yards with two touchdowns, and with the Patriots trailing 24-0 at the end of the first quarter, it wasn't nearly enough to dig his team out of a self-dug hole.
Brady entered Sunday's game listed with rib, ring finger and right shoulder ailments, and it's almost certain he picked up a few more dings while enduring sacks by Ray Lewis (who came in untouched in the first quarter), Terrell Suggs (who registered a strip sack and fumble recovery in the first quarter) and Dwan Edwards (who took Brady down on his final offensive snap of 2009).
But Brady's thoughts on injuries were evident to anyone who watched him after the final whistle Sunday. After sitting on the bench with his helmet drawn low in frustration, Brady came on to the field and sought out one player: Ravens safety Ed Reed, who played through a groin injury to register four tackles and intercepted Brady late in the first quarter.
On the way to finding Reed, he also took a moment to greet Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco, who played through some pains of his own and did enough to lift his team to victory.
"I don't think it's anything that he wants to talk about," said running back Kevin Faulk. "He's a football player. He's the quarterback, and we have injuries. A lot of people play with injuries, and he's going to tell you the same thing."
Indeed, Brady did. Even a follow-up question was brushed aside.
"Like I said, I don't want to get into all that," Brady said when asked if he played with broken ribs. "Whatever it is, we've got to overcome it. Certainly it didn't keep me from playing, whatever my injuries are."
Was this Brady's worst playoff game ever? It's hard to argue.
He's had fewer passing yards in a game -- heck, he threw for only 145 yards while earning Super Bowl MVP honors against the Rams in the 2001 playoffs -- and he's been intercepted three times in two playoff wins over the Chargers in recent years.
But one look at Brady's passer rating -- as flawed a statistic as that can be, since Flacco finished with a 10 on Sunday -- tells the story.
Brady finished with a rating of 49.1, which isn't just his worst playoff performance of all time; it's also the seventh worst of his career, and the worst since throwing four interceptions (and no touchdowns) against the Colts on Nov. 5, 2006.
|Tom Brady was intercepted three times by the Ravens.|
Brady hurt his own cause at times Sunday. He had a head-shaking interception midway through the first quarter when, after rolling out of play-action, he came under pressure from Jarret Johnson and threw an ill-advised ball right at Baltimore's Chris Carr that set up the Ravens' third touchdown of the quarter.
Lewis knew it was important for his team to shake Brady early.
"We understood that Brady was their key," Lewis said. "The bottom line is, if you can get to Brady and rattle him early, you have a great chance."
How did the Ravens do that? Suggs noted that they wanted to get Brady on the move.
"The main focus was to get him off his spot," said Suggs, who raced around Matt Light for his first-quarter strip-sack that he recovered at the Patriots' 17. Baltimore scored five plays later.
"We didn't want him comfortable. We wanted him to think we were blitzing when we weren't and weren't blitzing when we were. We just didn't want him to get comfortable, because he is one of the greatest in the game."
Echoed Ravens head coach John Harbaugh: "The pressure was real precise. It was effective how it attacked their protection. We got to Brady early. We hit him a lot throughout the course of the game, and then we decided to cover toward the end."
With the loss, Brady saw two streaks fall by the wayside. The Patriots had won 23 straight games that Brady had started at home before Sunday, and he was 8-0 in playoff games in Foxborough.
Brady has now lost three of his past five playoff appearances, including Super Bowl XLII and the 2006 AFC Championship Game in Indianapolis.
It's enough to make some wonder whether the Patriots' era of success has ended, although the mere suggestion lit a fire under Brady.
"We have Mr. [Robert] Kraft [and] what he's been able to do for the franchise and Coach [Bill] Belichick, who is probably the greatest coach of all time, and some great core leaders that we still have," Brady said.
"We've got a lot of youth, really good players that work hard. I certainly don't think because we lose a couple of games this year that all of a sudden everything is over. I'd love to see what we can do next year and the following year and the following year.
"I think, fortunately, we get to go out there and play again next year, and a lot of guys probably won't have that opportunity. But the guys that will have that opportunity will certainly want to take better advantage of it than we did today."
A reporter tried once more to get Brady to reveal his injuries, asking if he'd participate in the Pro Bowl later this month.
Once again, no dice.
"We'll have to see," Brady said with a smile. "We have our exit physicals [Monday], so we'll see what comes up."
Chris Forsberg is a roving reporter for ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter.
We've got a lot of youth, really good players that work hard. I certainly don't think because we lose a couple of games this year that all of a sudden everything is over. I'd love to see what we can do next year and the following year and the following year.
-- Patriots QB Tom Brady