By Dan Wetzel, Yahoo! Sports
January 12, 2008
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Perhaps you were impressed with Tom Brady's record-setting performance in beating the Jacksonville Jaguars on Saturday.
If so, you weren't Jaguars rookie safety Reggie Nelson.
"He ain't all that … He's all right," Nelson said.
Ah, Reggie, are you sure he ain't more than all that? Brady did, after all, set an NFL record by completing 92.9 percent of his passes (26 for 28 for 262 yards and three touchdowns) to lead the New England Patriots to a 31-20 playoff victory.
It was the near-perfect game for the quarterback of the perfect team.
"It was a check-down game," Nelson said, suggesting that most of Brady's completions were short and underneath the pass coverage. "Anybody can go 26-of-28 in a dump-down game."
Down the hall, "he ain't all that" dumbfounded Randy Moss.
"What?" Moss said. "It wasn't impressive? When you lose you're going to say things that (are) really inappropriate. You're talking about the MVP, that's Tom Brady.
"I'm not even going to respond to that."
Nelson's opinion might stem from the sheer frustration of having Brady carve up his Jags despite their almost perfect execution of the game plan.
Jacksonville focused on shutting down the deep threat – especially Moss (just one reception) – and, as Nelson noted, make Brady check down, or throw to short, underneath patterns.
It might have worked, too, if Brady hadn't completed nearly every throw.
"It was a little disappointing he missed two," smiled coach Bill Belichick.
And one of them was a drop by Wes Welker.
That's what makes Brady not just the MVP of the league this season, but the pure championship winner of this generation. He has the Patriots at 17-0 and barreling toward their fourth Super Bowl title not because he always makes the flashiest plays – although he does that, too – but because he almost always makes the right one.
"He doesn't force anything," said Jags safety Sammie Knight. "He's going to take what you give him. He's made a living throwing to backs and underneath."
If the Jaguars were going to stop the long ball, Brady had no problem nickel and diming them with short, smart passes.
"If you're taking two guys every play and putting them on Randy, then you leave a lot of guys one-on-one," Brady said.
Brady almost sounded like Nelson by calling it "easy." But that's his normal way of deflecting praise onto his teammates. He may be the supermodel-dating playboy, but he loves shrugging it all off and going with the aw-shucks routine.
"Those guys, when they are open like that, that's my job to hit them," Brady said. "They were open every time. It's easy when you have receivers that are open all the time and an offensive line that never lets anyone touch you."
None of his teammates would let him get away with that. Each told of Nelson's comments reacted with a bit of anger.
"I can't say what I want to say," said wide receiver Donte' Stallworth.
Underneath passes or not, 26-of-28 is a record for a reason.
"This is the NFL. If this was high school, yeah (it might not be 'all that')," Stallworth said.
Brady already had conducted his postgame interview by the time Nelson spoke. His play said enough, though.
The Pats had five scoring drives (with a missed field goal on a sixth). The team's other two offensive possessions were a one-play kneel down to finish the first half and an attempt to wind down the clock late in the fourth.
Big play or not, they couldn't have operated much better with Brady serving as the game-plan buster, laying waste to Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio's defensive plot.
"Unfortunately, Tom didn't slip on the way to work today," Del Rio said.
Back in the Jags locker room, there wasn't much to say. The secondary that allowed a record performance had done exactly what they were told to do and still couldn't stop New England.
So all four starters stood in front of their lockers, conveniently lined up in a row, and all four just shrugged at what had happened, although the other three were more gracious than Nelson.
"He's good," Nelson finally conceded before packing his bag and heading for the offseason. "He's a good quarterback."
Yeah, for an unbeaten MVP, Tom Brady's not too bad.
Dan Wetzel is Yahoo! Sports' national columnist. He is the co-author of the book "Death to the BCS: The Definitive Case Against the Bowl Championship Series," which following five printings of the first edition was re-released in a second, updated edition in October. Follow him on Twitter. Send Dan a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated on Sunday, Jan 13, 2008 2:03 am, EST
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