Nothing ugly about Brady's 517-yard night
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – On the westside of Manhattan, near Madison Square Garden, there is a nine-story image of Tom Brady(notes), painted on a brick building. It's an advertisement for UGG, the Australian fashion brand best known in the States for producing furry boots that teenage girls love.
Want to call him Justin Bieber? Go ahead. Want to mock his hair, which reached ponytail length last summer? Knock yourself out.
The NFL season's here now, and that's when Brady goes to work, as he did Monday with a record evisceration of the Miami Dolphins to the tune of 517 passing yards and four touchdowns in a 38-24 New England Patriots victory.
"He's obviously a pretty good player," joked teammate Danny Woodhead(notes).
He was the MVP last season and didn't have a statistical night like this one. He threw for 50 touchdowns in 2007 and he didn't rack up this many yards. He's been an elite passer for going on a decade now and, if it's possible, he's never looked more dangerous.
The Patriots are running a multi-threat spread offense that at times goes hurry-up to further keep a defense off balance. The thing is mesmerizing, like Boise State on steroids.
Eight different Patriots caught passes, making them almost impossible to scheme against. Four of them – Wes Welker(notes) (8 for 160, 2 TDs), Aaron Hernandez(notes) (7-103-1), Deion Branch(notes) (7-93) and Rob Gronkowski(notes) (6-86-1) – caught at least six throws. Brady even tried to throw a touchdown to linebacker Dane Fletcher(notes) (it didn't work).
He was flat-out brilliant, toying at times with a Dolphins secondary that eventually wore out, cramped up and all but gave in. Brady had such command of the game that at least one-third of the Dolphins crowd left early in the fourth quarter, when the game was, at least technically, still in doubt.
This is Brady at his macho best, turning his off-field image on its ear. He chooses his endorsement deals carefully and this current one feels like he's toying with America, not just embracing his metrosexual reputation, but taking it to another level.
UGG says it's going masculine. Or something like that. So it signed Brady to be the face of the brand. You'd have to be one heck of a New England Patriots fan to see Brady, arms folded and trying to look stern, and not go, "Ugh."
Still, he's the best player in football and if you want to dislike him for dressing like a look-at-me runway model, you then have to respect his look-at-them postgame routine.
Brady was asked Monday night about his statistical record in yardage and just grimaced.
"Well, it was a good night in that sense," Brady said. "I thought we executed pretty well at times but it's a team sport. Those guys were catching the ball, there's a lot of tough looks out there and guys stayed aware of the situations.
"We made enough plays to win and that's the goal. We came down here to win."
And the record-tying 99-yard touchdown pass to Welker, which put the game out of reach and sent most of the rest of the Miami fans home?
"I only threw it 25 yards, it's not like I threw it 99 yards. Wes did all the work."
Brady would spend the postgame praising his blockers, taking extra time to note the contributions of starting center Dan Koppen(notes), who went down with an injury, acknowledging the effort and fight the Dolphins put up and generally doing everything he could to downplay his stats in lieu of everyone else.
"We got a short week this week. … We've got to go home and prepare [for the San Diego Chargers]."
Somewhere in there are the personality traits that create a player of Brady's caliber. He's confident and cool, yet humble and respectful. There's little doubt he believes he's capable of the spectacular, but no matter how many times he achieves it, he realizes it's impossible without the contributions of many.
He may be comfortable, even courting, of the spotlight, but it's a light, he reminds, that others allow to be shown on him.
His teammates certainly appreciate the spreading of the glory, but they laugh at the idea that No. 12 isn't the central figure in this controlled circus.
"All Tom does is get it to the open man," Hernandez said. "He always puts it in the right spot. It's an easy catch. He makes it easy on the receivers and tight ends. It's easy to make a play.
"When you have a quarterback of that caliber anything is possible."
It was 2001 when Brady came out of nowhere, replacing an injured Drew Bledsoe and leading New England to the Super Bowl. He was a sixth-round pick out Michigan, a nobody that many viewed as little more than a game manager.
He was named MVP of that season's Super Bowl and developed into an icon, increasingly his own man away from football while maintaining the ultimate team persona inside the tightly controlled Patriots.
A decade later he is a man in full, capable of embracing the jokes about him, upping the ante in Manhattan billboard campaigns by day and then rewriting the record books at night.
UGG. Ugh. Unbelievable.
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