You know when you watch a slasher film and, inevitably, end up screaming at the screen that the bad guy isn’t dead yet? The real life, sports version of that bad guy is Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.
Once again, an opponent had the Patriots on the ground, gasping for air, and once again that opponent failed to empty a metaphorical round of bullets into Brady and Belichick’s chest to make sure they didn’t get back up.
You know the rest. No different than Jason or Michael Myers or Freddy Krueger, the Patriots made everyone believe they were done just long enough that when they erased a 10-point fourth quarter deficit to beat the upstart Jacksonville Jaguars 24-20 in the AFC Championship Game, it made you shake your head and mutter ‘of course’.
Only instead of a mask and machete, New England did it with a hoodie and right arm as Belichick made his signature second-half adjustments and Brady rose to the occasion to deliver pinpoint passes in the fourth quarter.
For Brady, the script has gotten a little too ridiculous, even by the standards of some Hollywood executives. He’s not just winning anymore, he’s doing it regularly in storybook fashion with improbable comeback after improbable comeback.
Had Brady’s performance against Jacksonville come in, say, 2010, it may have been less predictable and more awe-inspiring than it was for many on Sunday.
But because he’s similarly pulled a rabbit out of his hat twice in the past three years alone – and that too on the biggest stage in American sports – we’ve become spoiled and somewhat numb to the heroics.
Here are some ridiculous stats that will get your feeling back. Only 11 times in NFL playoff history has a team trailed by double digits in the fourth quarter and gone on to win. Four of those have been by the Patriots in the Brady-Belichick era: against the Jaguars on Sunday, against Atlanta in last year’s Super Bowl, against Seattle in Super Bowl XLIX (2015) and against Oakland in the famous ‘Tuck Rule Game’ in 2002.
Brady’s combined fourth-quarter stats in the past three efforts: 45-of-56 completions, 514 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions for a passer rating of 134.7.
Those numbers, again, have come in three quarters of play, in high-pressure situations and twice against the top-ranked pass defence of that season – Jacksonville this year and Seattle in 2014.
So the comeback against the Jaguars on Sunday was spectacular, but it wasn’t something we’ve never seen before. It’s just that the circumstances were slightly different – Brady was nursing a cut on his throwing hand that required 12 stitches – the characters new with Jalen Ramsey and the outspoken Jaguars the latest victims, and the level of difficulty raised with Brady taking punishing hits at the age of 40 and missing top target Rob Gronkowski (concussion) for most of the game.
“He’s the G.O.A.T. (greatest of all-time), man. He did G.O.A.T.-like stuff,” said New England safety Duron Harmon.
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
In less than two weeks we’ll see Brady, Belichick and the Patriots go for a sixth ring against Philadelphia. No matter how promising it may look for the Eagles in the game, they better not turn their back on the NFL’s unkillable force.
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