Monday, November 19, 2007
When was this game over? When the NFL released this year's schedule.
This game was as close to perfect as one can get. A couple of dropped balls and an intentionally grounded pass were the only glaring mistakes made by anyone on the Patriots. The Bills had one touchdown drive, but that was helped a great deal by a fortuitous broken play.
The Pats scored touchdowns on their first 7 drives, finally punting the ball in the 4th quarter. And to all the haters out there who claim that this team drives up the score in an unsportsmanlike manner, that one punt on 4th and inches should disprove that notion. Moreover, the heavy use of Eckel and Evans to end the game should also keep the haters quiet.
The Bills defense simply had no answer for the Patriots. It appeared as though they were in some sort of set-up intended to confuse the offensive line, but they wound up confusing only themselves. With an injury plagued defense like Buffalo's, full of young and inexperienced players, scheming too cleverly can be disadvantageous.
The Patriots put up 510 yards of offense, compared to Buffalo's 229. The Patriots were 8 of 11 on 3rd downs, and 2 of 2 on 4th downs. They had 30 total first downs.
Brady had another Heisman-esque performance with 373 yards passing, and 5 touchdowns. He is on pace for some ridiculous numbers. At this clip, he'll throw for 60+ TDs this season, and only 6 interceptions. He already has 3,059 yards passing, the first QB this year to surpass the 3,000 yard mark. Brady also leads the League in Completion Percentage (74.0%), Yards Per Attempt (9.50), Touchdown Percentage (11.2%, next highest is 8.6%), and of course, QB Rating at 134.0. Only three other QBs have ratings over 100.
Here are the single-season passing records that Brady is threatening to break:
Highest Passer Rating: 121.1 - 2004, Peyton Manning
Brady is at 134.0, so if he keeps everything going the way it has gone, he will beat this record. The key to this stat is TD passes and interceptions. The "bonus" rating points for TDs and the "penalty" points for INTs are huge swaying factors in QB Rating.
Most Passes Completed: 418 - 2004, Rich Gannon
Brady is on pace to complete 400 passes. If he completes 168 passes in the remaining 6 games (28 per game), then he will tie this record. However, Brett Favre is already on pace to complete 416 passes this year, so 418 might not even be enough. The 400 completions Brady is on pace for would be enough to tie the Patriots' record, set by Drew Bledsoe in 1994.
Highest Completion Percentage: 70.55 - 1982, Ken Anderson
Brady is already on pace to claim this record with a 74.0% rate of completion. However, this percentage can go down very easily with one bad game, or even one very good game. Completing 3 of every 4 passes is an immensely difficult task, even with Randy Moss and Wes Welker being receiving options.
Most Yards Gained: 5,084 - 1984, Dan Marino
Brady has an outside chance to break this record. He's currently on pace for 4,894 passing yards, which would be good enough for second place in this particular category. In order to tie Marino, Brady would have to throw 337.5 yards per game for the remaining 6 games. For any man to do that would be amazing, and with winter upon us here in New England, it would be close to inhuman.
Most Touchdown Passes: 49 - 2004, Peyton Manning
This is the record that all Patriots fans want Brady to not only surpass, but shatter. And that is precisely what he is on pace to do. Brady is averaging 3.8 TD passes a game, which puts him on a pace for 60.8 TD passes. Brady is only 11 shy of this record, and could conceivably break it within the next three weeks. But even if he is limited to two touchdowns per game for the remainder of the year, he will break the record and become the first QB in NFL history with 50 TD passes.
In summation, it is possible for Tom Brady to finish the year with 5,000+ yards, 60+ TDs, a 130.0 or so QB Rating, and a 74.0% completion percentage. He could set single season records for touchdowns, completions, completion percentage, yards, and QB rating.
But Brady isn't doing this all by himself. He's always been a great QB, but he's never had the eye popping numbers of an all-time great until this year. A big part of that success is thanks to Mister Randy Moss.
Randy leads the NFL in receiving yards with 1,052. He's on pace for 1,683 yards, and there is an outside chance that he'll break Jerry Rice's all-time record of 1,848 yards. He would have to average 132.67 yards per game in order to do so, but if he has a few massive games, like 200+ yard games, he will have a good shot to accomplish the feat. Moss is also four 100 yard games away from tying Michael Irvin's record of eleven 100 yard games in 1995. Furthermore, Moss is on pace to break Jerry Rice's record of 22 touchdown receptions in a season. Moss already has 16, and only needs a TD catch per game to tie Rice's mark.
As a team, the Patriots have scored 46 touchdowns. That puts them on pace to score over 73 TDs, which would be enough to break Miami's mark of 70, set in 1984. The Pats are also within striking distance of the single season record for yards gained per game, which is 7,075, set by St. Louis in 2000. The Patriots are currently on pace for 6,989 YPG. They'd have to average over 450 yards of offense for their remaining 6 games in order to beat the Rams' record.
The Patriots have scored 411 points and are on pace to score 658. That would obliterate the current record of 556, set by Minnesota in 1998. If the Patriots score more than 24 points per game for the rest of the year, they will break this record.
This team has scored 84 more points than any other team in the NFL. They've also allowed a mere 157 points. Only three teams have allowed fewer. The Pats have outscored their opponents by 254 points. Only six teams in the NFL (including the Patriots) have scored a TOTAL of 254 or more.
Since Bill Belichick is evil, we all know the number of points he is shooting for. If the Patriots average 42.5 points per game for the rest of the year (hardly inconceivable since they've averaged 41.1 to this point), they will reach 666 total points.
Next week, the Patriots can clinch the AFC East. If Buffalo loses to the 7-3 Jaguars in Jacksonville on Sunday afternoon, the Patriots will take the field that night having already clinched the divisional title. If Buffalo wins, the Patriots still clinch with a victory over the Eagles. In order for the Patriots to not win the division, they will have to lose every game, and the Bills will have to win every game. It is fairly certain that the Patriots will once again be AFC East Champions.
If the Patriots win their next three games (Philadelphia, @ Baltimore, Pittsburgh), they will clinch a bye in the first round of the post-season. If they win their next four games, they clinch homefield advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. All of this is regardless of what Pittsburgh or Indianapolis do.
In the past few years, we've expected nothing less than Super Bowl Championships from this team. We currently see the regular season as a struggle for homefield advantage, not a struggle to get into the playoffs. But we should not forget that this was not always the case.
This is only the 15th season of 10 or more wins in Patriots history. Six of those 10+ win seasons have occurred since 2001. Since that year, the Patriots have been over .500 for 7 seasons. Before 2001, the Patriots only had 23 seasons at or above .500. Before 2001, the Patriots had 10 post-season appearances. Since then, they're on the verge of making it 16 total appearances. At the beginning of this season, the Patriots were a single game above .500 all-time at 350-349-9.
This team, and this franchise is now something special. What we're witnessing this year may turn out to be the culmination of greatness in American sports history. Would any accomplishment be greater than a 19-0 season in the NFL? Could any team in any sport match that? The 1972 Dolphins went undefeated, but that was before the salary cap and their competition that year was below average.
We're all anticipating, even expecting a 19-0 season. None of us can imagine another team defeating the mighty Patriots. But it is important that we realize that winning the Super Bowl is the ultimate goal, not winning every single game. Obviously, winning 19 games automatically results in a Super Bowl win, but even if we lose a game, that does not mean that this team is a failure.
By the way, when the Patriots score 84 points against the Jets in a few weeks, that will be an NFL record.