Tom Brady escaped the pocket anyway, abandoning his protection for an awkward third-down sprint of 6 yards at the end of the third quarter, with his New England Patriots already up 28-7 over the Houston Texans. New England would win 42-14 on Monday night.
Brady wanted to make a point, no matter the score, and he fired up a spoiled home crowd with an emphatic fist pump, eliciting chants of „M-V-P.”
BOX SCORE: Patriots 42, Texans 14
„I don’t run too often, so I’ve got to show them that I can still do it a little bit,” Brady said. „I was pretty fired up at that point. That was a big moment in the game.”
And who is Brady is putting on notice?
„The opposing defenses that say I can’t run and won’t move out of the pocket,” he said. „At least there’s a little bit of a threat there. Not a big threat; I’m not like RGIII there or anything, but I can make a first down.”
Soon after Brady earned a first down by a yard, taking a hit in the process, he was pulled for backup Ryan Mallett. No point in keeping the 35-year-old Brady on the field during a blowout, even if the opposing Texans brought a league-best 11-1 record into the game.
From the jump, those 11 wins didn’t help the Texans at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots (10-3) scored on their first three possessions, including two touchdown passes to Hernandez, his first scores in almost two months. Brady wound up with 296 yards on 21 of 35 passing for four touchdowns with no interceptions.
The win marked the 10th season Brady has led the Patriots to at least 10 wins, and the scoring outburst puts New England on pace to finish eight points shy of the NFL record 589 they scored in 2007.
Tom Brady was all fired up during the Patriots’ 42-14 win over the Texans on Monday night.(Photo: Steven Senne, AP)
Monday’s performance – against the NFL’s sixth-ranked defense – should lift Brady into the league MVP conversation, if he wasn’t there already. His willingness to take a hit was reminiscent of a younger man, who won Super Bowls in 2002, ’04 and ’05.
Wide receiver Donte Stallworth joined the team two years after the last one, in 2007, and saw Brady win his first MVP award that season with an NFL-record 50 touchdown passes to just eight interceptions. Stallworth rejoined the team last week when injuries struck New England’s receivers. He caught a 63-yard touchdown pass from Brady as the team’s third receiver.
The difference between that Brady and the one we saw Monday night? Just a few more wrinkles in his face, Stallworth says.
„He’s probably right,” Brady says. „It’s called kids, marriage, a few losses over the last five years. Those will add some grey hairs and some wrinkles.”
No doubt the Patriots’ early-season stumbles added new furrows in Brady’s brow as well. These Patriots on Monday looked nothing like the crew which lost two in a row – once to Arizona (now 4-9) – in the season’s first three games. The Patriots have rebounded with seven straight wins, taking their last four by a margin of 90 combined points. Only the Broncos, with their eight consecutive wins, are hotter.
„That’s a good locker room in there right now,” coach Bill Belichick said.
Somehow, the only constant has been Brady. He’s got 29 passing touchdowns and four interceptions, which would tie the fewest in his career if he doesn’t throw another. Tight ends Rob Gronkowski, Hernandez and go-to receiver Wes Welker have each dealt with injuries, along with several offensive linemen. Every week, the Patriots are tailoring their game plan around some absence. This time, Julian Edelman was lost to a season-ending foot injury. Enter Stallworth, add Brady, and you get immediate production.
Along with Stallworth and Hernandez, Brandon Lloyd caught a touchdown pass, and the Patriots managed 130 rushing yards. Plus, the offense allowed only one sack to a team boasting a defensive player of the year favorite in pass rusher J.J. Watt. Guard Logan Mankins, returning from injury, said the success in protection had something to do with Monday being Matt Light Night. The retired Patriots tackle was honored at halftime.
„I would say most of the night (the blocking) went pretty good,” Mankins said. „It was like we had six guys out there so (Light) helped us a lot.”
But all the night’s successes weren’t good enough for Brady, drafted a year before Light in 2000. Brady lamented the failure to put up touchdowns on the four possessions following the opening run. He saw room for improvement and a reason to prove a point that is, at this juncture, academic.