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Taking on Tom

Don't call out Manning and give Pats' Brady a pass

Posted: Tuesday January 17, 2006 5:02PM; Updated: Wednesday January 18, 2006 1:42AM
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Tom Brady
There's no getting around it: Tom Brady played poorly in Saturday's loss to Denver.
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Why is Peyton Manning getting so much heat now while Tom Brady gets none? They're both terrific quarterbacks and very fine people. Each one will have my vote for the Hall of Fame when his name comes up (if I'm still around by then). And each had a bad postseason. But Manning is getting ripped and Brady has received no criticism whatsoever. Why?

There's just something about Peyton's personality, I guess. Or maybe it's the idea that since Brady has been such a proven winner, an occasional slip-up can be excused. Or maybe it's that his team struggled all season while the Colts didn't.

Both clubs suffered the same postseason malady. It's called out of sync. Blitzes were their undoing. Maybe that will be the new defensive textbook for playoff football. When you're playing a team that clinched early and rested people, blitz the hell out of them because they'll be rusty in their adjustments.

With Brady, his early problems were kind of brushed aside in the Jacksonville game because it became a runaway in the second half. But the Patriots had gone through a miserable first half. Brady was 7-for-17 for minimal yardage. He'd been sacked four times. His passes were sailing and nosing, receivers were running the wrong pattern or dropping the ball. But how could you dwell on stuff like that after a 28-3 victory?

The Broncos game started the same way: 7-for-15 for three first half points. But the errors were coming on blitz adjustment. The Broncos rushed as many as eight people on occasion. They attacked the Patriots' tackles, which seemed like the most logical thing to do, since they were the weak points of the offensive line. Denver was effective placing smaller players, such as safety John Lynch, in a wide rush position and having them come full bore. The weakness is that it takes longer to get to the passer that way, and Brady is usually so quick on his hot reads or sight adjustments that he'd kill it quickly.

But not on Saturday night. The whole New England operation was skewed. Things weren't crisp. Brady was off, even on some of his little checkdowns. One play was embarrassing: a smoke, or shoot route, in which Brady whips the ball quickly to a receiver out wide and if he can beat his man with one fake, he's off and running, only this time David Givens was downfield while Brady was throwing out wide -- to no one.

In the second half, the Patriots' offense started working, and the Broncos were doing zip, and it seemed as if New England would pull it out. Then came the forced pass that fell into Champ Bailey's hands, then the fumbled punt, and the Pats were sunk. Brady was criticized for one play, the forced pick by Bailey. But his whole first half was shaky, just as it was against Jacksonville, as was the rest of the offense.