Hannable: Tom Brady can lead Patriots to Super Bowl after all


FOXBORO — There’s no doubt the 2018 season wasn’t Tom Brady’s best.

Whether it was because of injuries, or perhaps a lack of weapons, Brady did not perform like he has in the past. In the regular season, the 41-year-old ranked 18th in completion percentage, seventh in passing yards, 10th in touchdown passes and 12th in QB rating.

It wasn’t a bad season by any means, just compared to the rest of the league at the quarterback position it was very un-Brady like. He also just didn’t have one particular game that you could deem a “vintage Brady” performance. There were glimpses — down the stretch vs. Chiefs, first half vs. Miami on the road and most of the final game of regular season vs. Jets — but no one unbelievable game.

That seemed to change Sunday in the AFC divisional round against the Chargers. Brady was outstanding in the Patriots’ 41-28 win. 

The quarterback was 34-for-44 passing with 342 yards and a touchdown for a quarterback rating of 106.5. He certainly could have had more touchdown passes, but he didn’t need to with how dominant the Patriots running game was.

It wasn’t a coincidence arguably Brady’s best game of the year occurred in the biggest thus far, and his play set the tone for the team as it played its best game of the entire season, beating the Chargers much more soundly than the final score would indicate.

“Tommy, every single week, his preparation, the way he works, it doesn’t matter who we play, he is going to put everything he has into it and I think that is just indicative of what he did today,” wide receiver Chris Hogan said. “He knew what was on the line. He’s our leader in this locker room. He was fired up and ready to play. When he’s on his game, playing like that, and being the leader that he is, it just rubs off on everyone. Everyone wants to play well for him and play well for the guys in this locker room.”

Duron Harmon added: “He’s a gamer. Tom Brady is the GOAT. He does it each and every game for us, each and every year. There is nobody ever better to play the game than him.”

Even the defense took notice, especially Jason McCourty, who is in his first season with the team and Sunday was his first ever playoff win.

“Tom is Tom. I would definitely say [he carries us], without a doubt,” he said. “I think for us, especially for me, every time you go out there and see him on the field and you see him executing, you just get a feeling like, ‘I am happy I am on this side.’ 

“Without a doubt, not only when they are putting points up, but who he is, his fiery attitude, what he brings day in and day out. To play with someone who not only has accomplished as much, but is just as much fired up as the guy that has accomplished nothing. Without a doubt. His playmaking, everything about him helps us.”

Brady’s best throw of the game may have been in the fourth quarter when the game was in doubt, but he delivered a seed to Julian Edelman over the middle of the field that snuck between two Chargers defenders that allowed Edelman to pick up 29 yards.

The throw not only was accurate, but had a ton of zip.

“It’s unbelievable,” Edelman said of getting to play with Brady. “I grew up in the same area as him. Then you get to go out and play a bunch of games with him. It’s been very awesome and it’s been a blessing. It’s been a contagious relationship, being around the best quarterback of all time, the best competitor of all time. For a receiver it’s been a dream.”

The quarterback’s performance could have also had something to do with his health. It was reported Sunday morning Brady had suffered a sprained MCL against the Titans on Nov. 13, but was now back to feeling as good as he has all season. His mid-to-late season struggles could certainly be attributed to his health, but now that he’s fully healthy, he can have games like he did Sunday.

If Brady’s teammates are right about his play impacting the way they play, he’s really going to need to bring it next Sunday in Kansas City with the AFC championship on the line. But, as we’ve seen over the years, the bigger the games, the better the performances.

“I just like winning,” he said.