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Inside the NFL (cont.)

Posted: Thursday October 25, 2007 11:23AM; Updated: Thursday October 25, 2007 12:41PM
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Brady Motivated by Spygate, Manning

The Patriots' Tom Brady is on pace for 61 touchdowns this season.
The Patriots' Tom Brady is on pace for 61 touchdowns this season.
AP
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Nearly two months after New England's spying incident against the Jets, the Patriots are 7-0 and obliterating one team after another. Don't think that the issues are unrelated. The Patriots will use this as motivation all the way to the Super Bowl if they have to, and if a few records fall along the way, that's even better.

Don't believe for a second that Tom Brady doesn't know that he is exactly 23 touchdown passes shy of breaking Peyton Manning's record of 49. Sure, Brady cares about winning games and championships, but he is also a rival and competitor of Manning. That means something, too.

With the possible exception of the Yankees and the Red Sox, no two teams in American sports have become so inextricably linked as the Patriots and the Colts. Who has the better offense? The better defense? The better quarterback?

Rare is the professional athlete who isn't type-A, manic in competitiveness, and motivated by any slight (see Woods, Tiger). Brady has the goods and the will and the urge to throw for more than 50 touchdowns this year. If he does, he can expect Manning -- quietly, and saying the right things all the way -- to try to break back in 2008.

Does Anyone Need a Lineman?

I bumped into the retired offensive lineman Ray Brown in the pressbox at Cardinals-Redskins, and it was difficult to tell that he was no longer playing. Even at 44, Brown has stayed in great shape after walking away from football in January 2006 following a 20-year career that included stops with the St. Louis/Phoenix Cardinals, Washington Redskins, San Francisco 49ers, Detroit Lions and Redskins again. Though Brown co-hosts Redskins pregame and postgame shows on Comcast SportsNet, I could easily see a team with a depleted offensive line giving him a call in a pinch. There may not be an offensive system he hasn't played in.

I was reminded last weekend by Brian Murphy, the co-host of the morning drive show on KNBR-680 in San Francisco, of the praise once given Brown by the late Bobb McKittrick, the coach who molded championship offensive lines for Joe Montana and Steve Young: "Ray Brown is a man I'd both want to have with me in a dark alley, and at dinner in a fine restaurant."

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