You know how you can tell when you've just watched a Tom Brady playoff performance? When the most hyped and overly-discussed story line of the game is the opposing quarterback throwing for 306 yards, 7.0 YPA, 1 TD, 1 INT, 78.4 passer rating in his first start.
Which is in no way throwing bad gas as Taylor Heinicke. What he did was nothing short of astonishing. If this was the Middle Ages, minstrels would wander the countryside singing songs of praise about his heroic feats. But Tom Brady quarterbacked circles around Heinicke. But he continues to accomplish so much in the postseason that the country can be blase about a 381 yard, 2 TD, 0 INT, 104.3 PR win on the road. Like those just happen.
To put what he's doing in perspective:
- Among his 31 career postseason wins, this was the 17th where he threw for 300+ yards. No other franchise has more than 12.
- Second place in all time postseason road wins belongs to Joe Montana, with 16. You could subtract Montana's total from the GOAT's and Brady would still be all alone in second place, ahead of Terry Bradshaw, John Elway and Peyton Manning, with 14 apiece.
- He's now 9-4 all time on the road in the playoffs. That's more than the total postseason wins of Eli Manning (2 Super Bowl rings), Jim Plunkett (ditto), Steve Young, Dan Marino and Drew Brees, to name a few.
- He now has 11,769 postseason passing yards. Peyton Manning is No. 2 all time with 7,339. If you subtracted Manning's total from Brady's, he would still be in the Top 10, ahead of Hall of Famers Kurt Warner, Jim Kelly, Troy Aikman and Bradshaw.
That is the definition of lapping the field. And last night's 381 yards was not only the fourth highest total of his playoff career, it was the second best ad for the TB12 Fitness method of all time, after this graphic:
Which couldn't help but remind me of this old gem:
Either people used to really hit the cigarettes and booze back in the day or Pliability and Scientology are the keys to immortality.
So how good was Brady? His 22-for-40 might not get a mention in the forward to his autobiography. But I defy you to name one truly bad or costly throw he made. Yes, he bounced one to Cameron Brate in the end zone. But that was your classic early down & goal pass, low on the goal line or high to the back so that the only one who's going to catch it is your own guy. And Leonard Fournette punched in the next one. He did put one up to Gronk on the back line that forced him to catch it out of bounds and the Bucs settle for three. But that's an attempt you want to see every time when Gronk is in solo coverage. More to the point, Brady's completion % reflects a bad game by Chris Godwin, who played with pizza paddle hands and finished with five drops for the game. And still, Brady kept feeding him.
And that wasn't even his best throw of the night. Not by a damned sight. That would be the one to Mike Evans not long after Washington made it a one score game:
That's just metahuman. Heinicke was playing his ass off and giving it all he had. His was an inspirational story, even in defeat. One that might make him millions of dollars. But ultimately, he was still The Viper in combat against The Mountain. And ultimately you knew the entire time whose brain splatter would end up all over whose fingers.
As far as I could tell, WFT had no choice but to man up on the outside against Godwin, Evans and Antonio Brown with zone underneath to stop Brate, Gronk and the backs, and just hope a safety could help bracket whoever got free deep. So Brady did what he's done hundreds of times before, which is identify the matchups before the snap and pick his favorite. And given the fact that he's assembled a supergroup of targets, there were really no wrong answers. It was like tossing a solo to one of the Traveling Wilburys; you can't go wrong no matter who's on guitar or vocals or harmony. And Brady is the Roy Orbison who's still hitting all the high note with perfect pitch late in his career.
It felt like the WFT's defense had one chance to throw stop sticks in front of the speeding car, and that was to mount a pass rush. And aside from a couple of quality swim moves for sacks against the interior of the Bucs line by Daron Payne, it was non-existent. Chase Young got credit for two hurries on Pro Football Focus, but I'll be damned if I saw either of them. Am I'm sure Brady didn't either. I don't think even remembered Young was there until Young came right up to him after the game. Tampa's protection scheme rendered him invisible, and it wasn't by giving him extra attention. I never once recalled them doubling him, rolling a back to his side or having someone chip him. It was either Donovan Smith or Gronk solo blocking him and making him irrelevant. He's a hell of a talent and the hands down Rookie DPOTY. But he definitely missed his opportunity to come for Brady.
Between that, being first to get to Brady in the postgame handshake and racing off the sideline after Heinicke's touchdown:
… Young definitely strikes me as one of those guys who knows where the camera is at all times and plays to it, like a younger JJ Watt. Believe me, I'd take him on my team in a nanosecond so fast the Hadron Particle Collider couldn't measure it. But this is something to watch for going forward.
Was it me, or did Mike Tirico and Tony Dungy present a pretty damned exciting playoff game with all the excitement of two stoners on the couch watching bird migration footage on "Planet Earth"? I could live with all the over-the-top Heinicke love - he was a hell of a story - I just wish they were enjoying themselves as much as the rest of us. Still, Dungy did call Brady The GOAT. So someone do a well-being check on him today. He's got to be sore after that one.
I can't finish this without my pro-Patriots bias being tested. Severely. Between watching the Bucs go like seven deep among their targets, putting up 380 passing yards with Gronk being relegated to third tackle and a former practice squadder completing precision throws 30 yards upfield in his first career start, it make you even that much more miserable and frustrated to remember what this past season was like. The incompletions. The ball never coming out as the offensive line was forced to sustain blocks for four and five seconds waiting for a quarterback to find a target. The screen passes on 3rd & 20. And it wasn't just this game, but the entire slate of games Saturday. And as sure as God's got sandals, I know it's going to drive me and everyone else in New England insane to watch real 2020 passing attacks operate.
What is Heinicke's contract status, anyway? I'm asking for a fanbase.