On Sunday, the best team won, not the team with the best quarterback. There once was a time when New Englanders understood the difference.
They loved the Patriots and hated the Colts because Indy was all about the quarterback while their team was all about .?.?. the team. In this AFC title game, the Pats showed they now are a team whose success is almost totally based on the quarterback and his ability to get the ball out of his hands fast enough to make a subpar offensive line and average at best pass defense look better than they are. And for the second time, the Pats faced a Denver Broncos team that can play defense like few others, run the ball just enough and protect its passer even if he takes more than two seconds to throw.
Denver faced Tom Brady’s offense twice this season. It won both times. The Broncos won the first time without three of their defensive starters. This time, both teams had all their weapons until Denver lost both starting safeties in the fourth quarter. Not surprisingly, that’s when Brady got 171 of his 323 total yards. But he couldn’t get a win because that’s hard to do from your back.
QUARTERBACK: S (Survivor)
Brady completed 48.2?percent of his throws, threw three picks (the one on the two-point conversion doesn’t really count, but it ended the season) and converted only 2-of-15 third downs (13.3 percent). On the first interception, he never saw linebacker Von Miller drop in coverage on tight end Rob Gronkowski and then widen out to put himself in the passing lane
On the second, he was fooled by Phillips’ call, believing he had running back James White one-on-one with a linebacker. Safety Darian Stewart undercut White and made the pick of a ball that was underthrown because defensive end Malik Jackson was in Brady’s grill. Brady had an awful 18.1 passer rating at halftime, and even after Denver lost its safeties in the fourth quarter, the defense kept flattening him, twice forcing hurried fourth-down throws that ended key drives. Still, Brady lofted a perfect fourth-and-10 pass to Gronkowski for 40 yards. Four plays later, as he was falling backwards from another hit, he lofted a great ball between two defenders, and Gronk went up to snare it in the end zone, reminiscent of Dwight Clark from Joe Montana
Any quarterback would have been rattled by all the hits, but few would have stood tall enough to come within one pass of overtime.
RUNNING BACK: D
Brady did focus on White and completed only five passes, as several long throws fell short of the running back’s ability to handle them. One third-quarter pass that could have been a touchdown was deflected by backup safety Josh Bush after White broke into the open but couldn’t create enough separation. Brandon Bolden beat Von Miller on one circle route for a 20-yard catch, but White was the featured player, and his production was minimal.
WIDE RECEIVER: D
TIGHT END: B-minus
OFFENSIVE LINE: F
DEFENSIVE LINE: B
DEFENSIVE BACK: B
SPECIAL TEAMS: D
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