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Holding a one point lead with 1:18 left in the second quarter against Denver on Sunday, Tom Brady took the snap and plunged ahead 1-yard for a touchdown on his infamous quarterback sneak.
As he picked himself off the ground he took a few steps in the end zone and did his best Rob Gronkowski impression — spiking the crap out of the ball.
But, it was more than a vicious spike. The three-second gesture embodies exactly who Tom Brady is and what he brings to this Patriots organization.
Sure, New England has the 32nd ranked defense in the National Football League. Sure, the Patriots lack wide receiver depth. Sure, the burden of not winning a playoff game in three years is in the air — and will be become more prevalent as January nears.
But, no matter the circumstance the Patriots have the greatest weapon of all. A weapon that gives the Patriots a shot to win every time the team takes the field. Whether it was his 517 yard performance in Week 1 to lift the Patriots against the Chad Henne led Miami Dolphins.
Or his vintage Brady-like performance, when he engineered a 10-play 80 yard-drive game-winning drive, which was capped by an 8-yard Aaron Hernandez touchdown reception to put the Patriots past the Dallas Cowboys.
How good has Brady been this season? No. 12 has passed for over 300 yards in nine games — including six games with at least three touchdown passes.
The fact remains that without Brady this team may closely resemble the 2011 version of the Indianapolis Colts. The Patriots defense allowed fewer than 20 points four times this season. More troubling is the opposing quarterback’s who have shredded the defense: Henne, Jason Campbell, Vince Young, Dan Orlovsky, Rex Grossman to name a few.
For the Patriots to advance in the playoffs they will have to get through Joe Flacco and Ben Roethlisberger — not Orlovsky or Grossman. When the Patriots won their Super Bowl’s in 2001, 2003 and 2004 they sported one of the league’s top defenses, but the opposition won’t see Rodney Harrison or Tedy Bruschi across the field — instead they will see a No. 11 and No. 18 in the secondary, and a front seven that is unknown to most of the league.
To say the Patriots will lean heavy on Brady come this postseason isn’t enough. The Patriots will live and die (in football terms) with Brady at quarterback.They will need the Patriots offense to score, and score at will. They will need the Patriots offense to control the ball.
Something they didn’t do in the playoffs last season.
In a 28-21 loss in the AFC Divisional Round against the New York Jets, Brady was sacked five times and threw an interception as the offense struggled against its division foe.
Did the Patriots learn? Two decisive wins against the Jets in the regular season suggest they did. But in the playoff’s it’s a new beast. And at the end of the day it will boil down to Brady’s right arm.
We can talk about how bad the defense is, for good reason, but with Brady at the helm the Patriots have a shot. A puncher’s chance, in boxing terms.
And in the playoffs, that’s all you need.