|David Garrard played outstanding, but Tom Brady had a game for the ages on Saturday.(Courtesy of NFL.com)
Well the Patriots didn’t obliterate the Jags like many predicted (though I was only a TD away from a perfect prediction) but in the end the Pats were never really in danger of losing Saturday night. Tom Brady set another significant NFL record, Laurence Maroney ran harder than he ever has and one of the greatest receivers of all time, coming off a dream individual season, caught one ball. That’s the Pats for you.
- DAVID GARRARD CAN PLAY: Not many people gave the Jags a chance simply because David Garrard had never been on such a big stage and he hasn’t shown the ability to take over the game. The Patriots completely negated the Jags running attack – with Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew combining for just 66 yards – but David Garrard nearly beat them. Save for the late interception to Rodney Harrison, Garrard make throw after throw, and though many of the receivers were wide open, he made the throws that kept his team in the game. His elusiveness can only be appreciated when you see him in person evading some pretty quick defenders. Hats off to Garrard, but it wasn’t enough.
- MARONEY IS NO PHONY: Laurence Maroney seemed to come of age in the last few weeks of the regular season, but Saturday was definitely his coming out party. The second year running back carried the ball 22 times for 122 yards and a TD, good for 5.5 yards a carry. Unlike some of his other big performances, his yard total was not padded but one or two big runs but rather he was consistently effective. His ability to run downhill and lower his shoulder should keep him in the league for a long time. It seems most of his problems comes when he dances at the line of scrimmage and it seems like it happens on many draw plays, especially from the shotgun. If the Pats stay away from the shotgun draw and stick to the power I or single back formation, Maroney could play a big role against the Colts or Chargers.
- BRADY CONTINUES TO PROVE WHY HE’S THE GREATEST: 26 for 28, 262 yards and 3 TDs. His 92% completion percentage is an NFL record – both regular season and playoffs – for highest % in a single game, with a minimum of 20 passes. His only two incompletions were dropped balls. With two more wins in the playoffs, Brady will have to be considered by most people as the greatest quarterback of all time. The epitome of Brady’s greatness can be quantified on the last Pats scoring drive of the game, when the called play was a screen but Brady recognized the Jags had sniffed it out and with the pressure on he lofted a pass down the sideline which found a streaking Donte Stallworth for a 53 yard gain. It was by far the longest play of the night for Brady as Randy Moss was only thrown to once in the entire game. Brady dinked, dunked and screened down the field all night and with an incredible performance from the offensive line, was able to control the clock and never seemed in a hurry to do anything. Eight different Patriots caught balls and Ben Watson had two TDs. Simply dominant without the most dominant wide receiver in the NFL catching a pair of passes.
I’m happy with the win but there are definitely some chinks in the armor. While the Pats running defense – led by a great performance by Wilfork and the defensive line – was outstanding, the secondary had some problems. Garrard played well but many of his receivers were wide open in the first half. Ellis Hobbs didn’t play the entire game because of a groin injury and Rodney Harrison had another pair of stupid personal foul/late hits and sooner or later he’s going to make that mistake at the wrong time and it could cost the Pats. But in the end, a playoff win is a playoff win. Belichick’s playoff winning % trails only Vince Lombardi and Brady is moving up the career playoff stat charts. Next week will be special, especially if the Colts can take care of business.
Tags: Patriots, Randy Moss, Tom Brady