By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — The poor folks of Buffalo and the surrounding area have just go to be wondering — can’t this guy retire already?
Once again, Tom Brady made the quick trip west to Buffalo, and once again, Brady delivered a victory that completely drained the life out of an amped-up stadium and sent Bills fans to their homes feeling defeated.
While Brady wasn’t the sole driver of Monday night’s 25-6 win, he was nevertheless the most important player on the field for New England. That was largely because without the injured Sony Michel, the Patriots entered the game with just two running backs — a duo that combined has three games with double-digit carries.
The offensive game plan on Monday night was going to rely heavily on Brady, and though he threw a handful of noticeably inaccurate balls on a windy night in Orchard Park, the quarterback delivered.
He did that the way he always does, which is with his right arm. He completed 29 of his 45 passes (64.4 percent) for 324 yards (7.2 yards per attempt), and though he didn’t throw any touchdowns, he did throw two passes — a 22-yarder to Rob Gronkowski and a 20-yarder to Chris Hogan — that put the Patriots inside the Buffalo 10-yard line. The latter put the Patriots at the 1.
But the passing is standard at this point. It was a pair of unique plays that especially stood out on this night.
The first came on a reverse pitch to Julian Edelman midway through the first quarter, with the score knotted at 0-0. On a third-and-2, Brady handed to James White, who then pitched to Edelman on the reverse. Edelman’s lead blocker on the play was Brady himself.
And though Brady didn’t exactly punish linebacker Lorenzo Alexander, the quarterback did his job by standing in and absorbing a shot to help spring Edelman for a gain of six yards. That play moved the chains, and the Patriots went on to kick a field goal to end the drive.
“I was like a speed bump. I wouldn’t say that was necessarily a block,” Brady joked after the win. “I was just trying to get into Lorenzo Alexander’s way. But he’s a big, strong guy, I’ll tell you that. … That’s my assignment, actually. It was just good to get Julian around, and I think that was a third down play, too. Anything We gotta do to gain yards, make third-down conversions, and win the game, that’s what’s most important.”
Later in the first quarter, on another third down, Brady displayed a tool that he often keeps hidden in his back pocket — and for good reason — when he took off running. It was a third-and-7, and without any open options down the field, Brady decided to scramble for the line to gain.
Brady danced in the pocket, escaped the rush of three Bills defenders, and sprinted up the field. Though he obviously lacks the speed of the NFL’s more mobile QBs (and he also lacks the speed of the NFL’s less mobile QBs), he was able to plant a foot and put a deke on Tre’Davious White. Brady then capped off his run by falling forward for the first down.
For any quarterback, throwing caution to the wind with such a dive is a risk. For a 41-year-old, the peril figures to be a bit more extreme. That obviously didn’t hinder Brady on the play.
The effort was enough to pick up a first down, and the Patriots also turned that drive into a field goal, this time taking a 6-0 lead.
Brady admitted that taking off and running up the middle of the field is very low on his list of options for most plays.
“It’s just not, it’s a hard thing for me to do,” Brady said. “Just instinctually, I just don’t make that fast decision to go. But when I do, I mean, I can make a couple of yards here and there.”
With some major assistance from the Patriots’ defense, which actually outscored Buffalo’s offense, Brady picked up his 29th victory against the Bills. No other quarterback in NFL history has ever beaten a single opponent more than 26 times, so Brady’s dominance of Buffalo is in its own class in terms of NFL bullying. Brady has also picked up 15 victories in Buffalo, and the quarterback has won more games and thrown more touchdowns at New Era Field/Ralph Wilson Stadium than any quarterback over the past 17 years.
Yes, to reiterate: Brady has won more games and thrown more touchdowns in Buffalo’s home stadium than any Bills quarterback has won and thrown. (This story from last season spells it all out quite succinctly.)
In addition to that dominance in Buffalo, Brady has robbed the Bills and their fans (the fans make the fanbase, after all) of the joy that accompanies a victory in prime time. The Bills and Patriots have met four times on either Sunday night or Monday night since Brady entered the league. The Patriots are now 5-0, outscoring Buffalo by an average of 16 points per game. That includes a 56-10 blowout in Buffalo in 2007, when the home crowd was fired up for the rare opportunity to host a prime-time game. That excitement lasted all of a few minutes.
While the Bills and their fans had reason to believe their team could actually pull off a victory in this contest on Monday night, the end result was the same as it always is. Brady and the Patriots won, and they won big.
And while the whole process is old hat for all involved, and while this particular game probably won’t be remembered as even a top-100 game of Brady’s career, it was what he did in those two plays that deserves some added attention.
It’s just that, even after nearly 20 years of watching him compete, we can sometimes forget the insatiable drive to compete and to win that burns within Tom Brady. In a fiercely competitive league full of fiercely competitive men, Brady’s obsession remains unmatched.
As we on the outside, whether we be fans or members of the media, analyze every single aspect of Brady’s life on and off the field, we do often run the risk of overlooking this aspect of the Hall of Famer. But every now and then, whether it’s by galloping up the field and exposing himself to the risk of a big hit, or whether it’s by throwing his body in the way of a 245-pound linebacker, Brady offers some blunt reminders of what makes him, well, Brady.