By Mark Paulette
“Unicorns. Show ponies. Where’s the beef?!” Those were the immortal words a delirious Scott Zolak bellowed out the last time the Patriots played the Saints. When Tom Brady was tossing game-winning touchdown passes to the likes of Kenbrell Thompkins to avoid the direst of circumstances.
As the Patriots marched into New Orleans facing the threat of an 0-2 start to the season and the potential outbreak of mass hysteria in Pats’ Nation, Tom Brady and Co. took the field on Sunday with a purpose. It was not to announce their return, because anyone with half a brain knew they never left, (I’m aware that eliminates 50% of talk media). It was simply to remind the league and those who claim to know it best that they are still the elite. And on a day in which the offense was ravaged by injuries, the driving force behind New England’s dominance was never more clear, as the greatest quarterback to ever play showed he’s still the game’s greatest.
In the raucous setting of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, Brady accomplished something his illustrious career had never seen, throwing three successive touchdowns on New England’s first three possessions in the game’s opening quarter.
Brady passed for over 170 yards in the first quarter and eclipsed 300 yards by halftime as his team posted 30 points to silence the once deafening crowd.
The 40-year-old carved through New Orleans’ porous defense completing 30-of-39 passes for a quarterback rating of 139.6 and finished with a cool 446 yards through the air.
Brady became the second-ever quarterback age 40 or older to throw for 400+ yards and 3+ TD’s in a game (Warren Moon, 1997), snapped a tie with Peyton Manning for most games with 300+ yards, 3 TD’s and 0 INT’s (53), and even out-rushed the league’s reigning rushing champion, Zeke Elliot, on the afternoon, nine-yards-to-eight.
His passing output would have signified a career day for any one of his peers, but for Brady, it was just another day of doing his job. And that was exactly the reaction this aerial assault received. Sure, his big game made headlines, spelling the deaths of any hot take artist’s arguments who dared to claim Brady was plummeting towards mediocrity. But his historic day was largely met with the sentiment of “Yeah, so? That’s what Brady does.”
Brady’s greatness has reached the point where we meet a 450-yard performance (a 450-yard game by a bleeping 40-year old!!!) with apathy, rather than astonishment and awe. This was not simply another nice game, it was the third-highest passing total of Brady’s career, aka the golden standard for a career, not just by a quarterback, but across sports.
450 yards from a quarterback is equivalent to scoring 60 points in an NBA game, both occurrences which happen less than a handful of times each season. Think of it in a different context: if Jimmy Garappolo threw for 450 yards week 17 against the Jets, the world would cease to exist. Newspapers and talk shows would call for Brady’s exit as it would be Jimmy’s time to shine. If Dak Prescott led the Cowboys to victory behind a 450-yard performance, it would be conveyed as the greatest game ever played. But when Brady throws for 450 yards, it’s not spectacular, it’s expected.
Remember the cliff that First Take’s, Max Kellerman, said Brady would tumble off to become a “bum in short order?” Well it grew a new peak Sunday as Brady continued to separate himself from a league muddied by bad play at his position. Sunday proved a day in which 15 of the remaining 29 QB’s demonstrated to be below average, per ESPN’s QBR index.
There’s no telling how many of these games remain in the pliable right arm of TB12. After all, the man is 40. Brady is entering, and conquering, uncharted territory. All I ask is that we don’t take a performance like Sunday’s for granted.
*Maybe this is why we take him for granted: Tom Brady owns the last three 400-yard passing games in the NFL –
– December 12 vs. Baltimore (406)
– Super Bowl 51 vs. Atlanta (466)
– Sunday, Sep. 17 vs. New Orleans (446)
Mark Paulette is the Senior Producer of The Drive, weekdays 4pm to 6pm on 92.9fm The Ticket and streaming live at DriveShowMaine.com. Follow us on Twitter, @DriveShowMaine and “Like Us” on Facebook, Drive Show Maine.