Sunday, September 12, 2010
All in all, not a bad week for Brady
By Jackie MacMullan ESPNBoston.com
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- So how was your week?
Tom Brady escaped serious injury in a car wreck, picked up an extra $72 million and systematically picked apart the Cincinnati Bengals as though he were playing football in his neighbor's backyard.
Tom Brady set the tone early as the Patriots ran away with their opener.
"He's just so calm out there," Cincinnati cornerback Johnathan Joseph said in the wake of New England's 38-24 win. "I know he had a lot going on, but he's a Class A professional, so it didn't seem to bother him. I mean, the guy has been down this road before."
The feeling in the Bengals locker room was that if the defense could get to Brady early, then perhaps that wonderful deterrent -- doubt -- would creep into a young New England huddle. The worst-case scenario was to allow the Patriots to sprint out to an early lead and force Carson Palmer and his charges to play catch-up.
Brady came in with a checklist of his own concerns. Logan Mankins (contract holdout) and Nick Kaczur (injured) were missing from his normally redoubtable offensive line. He was mindful that Wes Welker, who admitted he was not at 100 percent, would need some early catches to build his confidence after major knee surgery. He was breaking in a new group of tight ends, including rookie Rob Gronkowski.
The first series, he reminded them, was critical.
And, as it turned out, it was vintage Brady. Three passes, three completions and a touchdown. By halftime, the Patriots were up 24-3 and Brady already had racked up 178 passing yards and two touchdowns (both to Welker).
Everything Cincinnati had discussed avoiding had happened, and it was at the hands of Brady.
"He's just so consistent, consistent, consistent," safety Chris Crocker said. "He trusts his guys, and he trusts his system."
The New England offensive line, which was an obvious question mark heading into this game, quickly transformed itself into an exclamation point. Brady was given ample time to throw and wasn't sacked at all. In fact, the Bengals only knocked him down twice. As a result, the Cincinnati secondary was forced to play defense for 8, 9, even 10 seconds.
"Ten seconds or 1 second -- it doesn't matter," said cornerback Leon Hall. "They just flat-out beat us. It was stuff we've seen before.
"But [with Brady], even when a guy is covered, he pinpoints it."
This game will not go down as a Brady masterpiece. He made some sloppy throws, but still finished with 258 yards on 25-of-35 passing. He connected with seven receivers, five of them on multiple occasions.
He did so after expertly deflecting the distractions of a summer of contract talks, as well as shaking off the effects of a car accident Thursday morning that left him shaken but unhurt. This was no fender bender; a passenger in the other vehicle, which reportedly ran a red light, was hospitalized.
Brady acknowledged that it was a scary moment, particularly given that most of his family is on West Coast time and awoke to a flurry of text messages regarding the accident.
"I called my dad pretty quick and just said, 'I'm fine.'"
He was more than fine on this Sunday, which represents a new beginning for a young team that will look to the quarterback for calmness and consistency throughout a grueling NFL season.
Brady has a new contract, a new car and a new winning streak. Not a bad week after all.
Jackie MacMullan, who spent nearly 20 years as a beat writer and columnist in Boston, is a columnist for ESPNBoston.com.