FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The halfway point of the 2012 season, coupled with the New England Patriots having their bye last weekend, offered some additional time for reflection when it comes to quarterback Tom Brady.
The underlying theme is this: At age 35, he's showing no signs of slowing down.
When looking at the first half of his 2012 season -- 209-of-320 for 2,408 yards, with 16 touchdowns and 3 interceptions -- it stacks up well in every category to his other 10 seasons as the Patriots' top quarterback.
The 209 completions are his second highest for the first half of a season, behind last year's 212.
The 2,408 yards are his third most for an opening eight-game stretch, behind last season's 2,703 and the 2,431 from his record-setting 2007 campaign.
The 16 touchdowns are tied for fourth-most at the halfway mark, while the three interceptions are his second-lowest total (he had just two through the first half of the 2007 season).
Such production has become the expectation when it comes to Brady, but it doesn't make it any less impressive. So when he told Scott Zolak on a recent edition of "Patriots All-Access" that he hopes he plays a lot longer than the four years Zolak projected for him, the first thought that came to mind was "why not?" In some areas, Brady has never been better.
Not that everything has been perfect for Brady, whose low point over the first half probably came Oct. 14 in Seattle when his trademark accuracy and decision-making clearly were off. There were also some uncharacteristic late-game struggles that led to questions about his inability to close out games.
But one of Brady's greatest strengths is the ability to avoid riding the wave of emotions that comes with every up-and-down NFL season, and it's clearly something coach Bill Belichick appreciates. Asked Wednesday if there is anything that surprises him about Brady at this point, Belichick couldn't think of much.
"He's been doing them pretty consistently here for a while," he said.
Brady's strong start has him in the discussion for MVP consideration, right there alongside Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning (203-of-292 for 2,404 yards, with 20 TDs and 6 INTs), Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (219-of-327 for 2,382 yards, with 25 TDs and 5 INTs) and Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (206-of-299 for 2,360 yards, with 17 TDs and 6 INTs), among others.
Brady, of course, cares little about such chatter. He craves another Lombardi trophy and the "5" in the win column, coupled with the "3" in the loss column, isn't to his liking. That starts to explain why he spent time over the bye week studying opponents.
"I'd like to play better over the second half and there is always room for improvement," Brady said Wednesday. "There are certain areas where I need to improve and it's been really a point of emphasis, so we're going to try to do those things."
"I think he can improve a lot," Belichick added when asked if Brady is at the point of his career where he's sustaining more so than improving. "He works hard at it every day. Every day, there are things that we talk to him about for that week, or from the previous practice, and he's always anxious to hear them. He has a lot of his own ideas, things that he feels like he, or we, can do. I think there's always room for improvement for all of us."
In a light moment Wednesday, it was mentioned to Brady that perhaps his improvement could extend off the field -- to his wardrobe selection. On Monday when he was spotted before an Aerosmith concert in Boston, Brady wore black-rimmed glasses, a beige V-neck sweater with buttons and a black overcoat.
Told that he dresses kind of weird, Brady smiled and simply said, "Thank you."
The light-hearted back-and-forth continued when a longtime reporter asked him if he lays out his clothes beforehand.
"I have no response to that," Brady said, laughing.
Most importantly, things look good on the field for Brady. His half-season statistics rival any other year he's produced, outside of the unforgettable 2007 record-breaking campaign.
It's what we've come to expect from Brady, but it doesn't make it any less impressive.