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Tale of two teams

Brady, Pats are back; Bolts end Colts' perfection bid

Posted: Monday December 19, 2005 1:24AM; Updated: Monday December 19, 2005 11:59AM
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Tom Brady
Despite facing the No. 2 defense, Tom Brady turned in a 258-yard, three-TD performance.
Al Bello/Getty Images
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A split column this morning. Part Saturday, part Sunday. Part Patriots-Bucs, part Chargers-Colts because those were the most compelling games of the weekend, and because I'm sure you, like me, see Patriots-Colts in our future. Our January future.

FOXBORO, Mass. -- Readers of this column know what I think of Tom Brady. Not just as a player, but as a person and a guy who took less money to help the team's salary-cap situation. I was in the Brady-for-Sportsman crowd, probably as a leader of the pack. This morning, I'm not here to say he's better than Peyton Manning, worse than Peyton Manning, the same as Peyton Manning, because, let's face it, they're both all-timers. I don't know who's better. They're the DiMaggio and Williams of this NFL era. But that's a debate for another column.

It's understandable that what Brady did on Saturday in the 28-0 rout of the Bucs would get lost because of the incredible job by the Pats defense. (I write about that D in my SI "Inside the NFL'' column this week.) Brady gets taken for granted, almost, and it's a tribute to his consistent greatness that a 65-percent, 258-yard, three-touchdown, no-pick performance against the NFL's No. 2 defense was barely discussed after the game. Except by those who really know football, like Tampa Bay defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin. Brady was magnificent in this game. I mean, top-10-in-history magnificent.

I refer to two throws. The first was what Kiffin talked about the moment he saw me in the Bucs' locker room after the game. "That quarterback is unbelievable," Kiffin said in a soft, raspy voice. "That throw he made on the third play of the game, I mean, I don't know who else makes that throw. An absolutely perfect throw.''

Third-and-7. Bucs showing blitz. David Givens, split left, runs about a 23-yard deep corner route. Brady gets time. Like a carpenter who measures twice and cuts once, he lasers in on Givens and starts to throw. He's got maybe a four-yard hole between the safety and corner in which to wedge the ball. He throws, almost aiming it, but it spirals perfectly out toward Givens, and it drops into his hands just out of the reach of cornerback Juran Bolden. Thirty-two-yard gain.

Of the 31 other starting NFL quarterbacks, maybe Manning and Carson Palmer have the arm and the guts to make that throw. Maybe. But that throw was the difference between Josh Miller punting from the Patriots' 12 and the Patriots finishing a drive for the first touchdown of the game against a defense that you figure wasn't going to give up many points.

New England, 7-0.