By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — In today’s world, where we all pursue the story of the day like a dog chasing its tail, long-term memory isn’t our strong suit. That’s not necessarily a criticism, but it’s more of an observation of how fast news moves these days. We can often easily lose perspective.
And so, at the very least, it’s worth offering up a reminder that the football world — and particularly those in the New England region — should not forget about Tom Brady’s turnaround last year at this time.
Last year, Brady’s sizzling pace slowed down once the calendar hit December. After averaging 311 yards, 2.6 TDs and 0.3 INTs from Week 2 through Week 14, Brady ended the season averaging 241 yards, 1.2 TDs and a full 1 INT per game over the season’s final five weeks. The reaction was what you’d expect it to be: He’s old, the cliff has arrived, I TOLD YOU THIS DAY WAS COMING, SKIP!
Prior to last weekend’s brilliance vs. the Jets, Brady was in the midst of an extended stretch of playing some quiet football. Over eight games (from Week 8 through Week 16), Brady was averaging 279 yards, 1.1 TDs and 0.5 INTs per game. With a couple of clunkers (home vs. Buffalo, at Tennessee) and some other uninspiring performances, the same storyline reared its head once again: Washed up, noodle arm, one touchdown in three weeks, can’t do it anymore.
On that, again, it’s worth remembering that after Brady had an unremarkable finish to the 2017 season (he won the MVP largely because Carson Wentz and Todd Gurley sat out in Week 17), all Brady did was put together arguably the greatest postseason performance of his Hall of Fame career.
In those three playoff games (vs. Tennessee, Jacksonville, and Philadelphia), Brady completed 64 percent of his passes for 1,132 yards, eight touchdowns and zero interceptions. In terms of opponent passer ratings, those teams ranked first (Jacksonville), ninth (Philadelphia) and 16th (Tennessee) during the regular season
For Brady, that was his highest touchdown total without an interception in a single postseason, surpassing his previous mark of five (2004). It was the second-highest postseason yardage total of his career, just five yards shy of the mark he set in 2016.
With 8.1 yards per attempt, it was the second-best rate of his playoff career (2005, 8.6), and his passer rating of 108.6 was second only to the 109.4 rating he put forth in the 2004 playoffs.
Brady even managed to avoid sacks better than normal, as he was sacked on 2.4 percent of dropbacks — the fourth-lowest total of his playoff career.
He threw for 337 yards and three touchdowns vs. the Titans. With a giant gash across his throwing hand, he threw for 290 yards and a pair of touchdowns with a 68.4 percent completion rate vs. Jacksonville. Then he went for a Super Bowl record 505 yards and three more touchdowns against Philly. He threw 139 passes but zero interceptions.
Brady’s one failure in the 2017 postseason came when he didn’t see or recognize the presence of Brandon Graham on the Super Bowl-altering strip sack late in the fourth quarter. But as a passer, Brady as at his absolute best last year in the postseason.
TOM BRADY, WEEKS 1-12, 2017
306.7 yards per game, 8.27 yards per attempt
26 TDs, 3 INTs
111.7 passer rating
TOM BRADY, WEEKS 13-17, 2017
240.6 yards per game, 6.95 yards per attempt
6 TDs, 5 INTs
81.6 passer rating
TOM BRADY, 2017 POSTSEASON
377.3 yards per game, 8.14 yards per attempt
8 TDs, 0 INTs
108.6 passer rating
TOM BRADY, WEEKS 1-7, 2018
268 yards per game, 7.5 yards per attempt
16 TDs, 7 INTs
99.7 passer rating
TOM BRADY, WEEKS 9-16, 2018
272.1 yards per game, 7.87 yards per attempt
9 TDs, 4 INTs
92.7 passer rating
TOM BRADY, 2018 POSTSEASON
Brady’s late-season dip in production was much more pronounced a year ago, yet it did nothing to prevent him from turning in arguably the very-best postseason performance of his career. For a player whose defined his legacy with outstanding playoff performances, that’s really saying something.
That’s at least worth remembering now. Brady’s overall numbers this year aren’t far off from his numbers last year; they just appear to be significantly down because of how passing numbers have exploded league-wide this year. But Sunday’s showing vs. the Jets — four touchdowns and no picks on 72.7 percent passing — showed that he’s still physically capable of getting the football where it needs to go. And in addition to a stellar overall postseason resume, last year’s turnaround from average to superhuman — a change which essentially happened overnight — provides reason to believe Brady will be able to be something else once the postseason begins.
“I think it’s just naturally a level of intensity that you can’t really emulate at any other point in the season and really for us, any other point in our life,” Brady said this week, shedding light on his mentality in the playoffs. “That level, that’s intense and it’s every play and it’s just, you max out. You can’t leave everything behind. You’ve just got give everything you’ve got.”