FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Everyone was having their fun with New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady after Sunday's 41-13 victory over the Miami Dolphins. Even Patriots Hall of Fame quarterback Drew Bledsoe.
The mood was festive in the postgame locker room, players donning their AFC East championship hats and T-shirts, but it hadn’t been so joyous at halftime. At that point, the Patriots led 14-13, had been outexecuted and outsmarted late in the second quarter, and were in desperate need of a spark.
Brady delivered it on the team’s opening drive of the second half in most unconventional fashion -- a 17-yard run on third-and-11. He capped off the surprising jaunt by lowering his left non-throwing shoulder near the sideline in a collision with safety Walt Aikens before popping to his feet and letting out, Aikens said, a loud “Wooooo!”
Brady, of course, is known more for his arm than his feet. So when he takes off, it gets a rise out of many, especially when the results are as good as they were Sunday. Considering the franchise-record 24 third-quarter points that followed Brady’s run, including a 3-yard touchdown run by LeGarrette Blount on the next play, it’s no stretch to call it the play of the game.
So cue up the laugh track.
“I think he’s still running,” Bledsoe, in town on business and a guest of owner Robert Kraft, cracked in the locker room. “That took a long time.”
Added receiver Julian Edelman, one of Brady’s closest friends, “It was the slowest 17 yards I’ve ever seen in my life.”
Then Edelman poured it on a bit more.
“It’s always fun seeing the Clydesdale run,” he joked. “I call him Brady Vick.”
The 17-yarder was the third longest run of Brady's career and his longest since ripping off 19 yards against the Colts on Nov. 4, 2007. Brady’s career long is 22 yards (vs. Bengals, Oct. 1, 2006).
Part of what made this run so notable was the way it ended -- Brady refusing to slide as the 6-foot-1, 210-pound Aikens closed on him.
“I was going to, but I was pretty pissed off that time,” Brady said. “If he was a bigger guy I would have thought really hard about sliding, but once I was in the secondary, things happen pretty quickly for me out there. I’m not the fastest guy out there so things close down pretty quick.”
Brady’s effort lit a fire under his teammates.
“It was an emotional lift, and with a guy like Tom who is committed to doing whatever it takes, I think that permeates through the entire team,” left tackle Nate Solder said. “We saw him do it last week [twice on third down against the Chargers] and saw him do it this week, and it’s just a reoccurring theme with his character and his work ethic and his determination.”
Brady's emotion was hard to miss.
“He got up and he was like ‘Wooooo!’ He was excited,” the Dolphins’ Aikens said. “They try to protect the quarterback, but when I saw he wasn’t sliding I tried to give him what I had on the sideline. I got a nice shot on him.”
Brady’s work ethic, specifically on extending plays with his feet, has been well-documented this season. In October, he joked that there isn’t a cell in his body that tells him to run, but that he admires the ability of quarterbacks such as Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, Jay Cutler, Alex Smith and Ben Roethlisberger, among others, who have the ability to do so.
Brady’s point was that those plays are often big from a momentum standpoint, and if he could become a little more of a threat in that area, it might help the team. That’s exactly how it unfolded Sunday on third-and-11 with 11:52 remaining in the third quarter and the home crowd getting restless with a sputtering offense still trying to find its groove.
Brady’s decision to take off was excellent based on what was unfolding in front of him -- a three-man rush, double coverage in certain areas down the field, and a wide swath of real estate opening off the right side because the pass-rushing ends on both sides were pushed so far up the field.
“It’s something we talked about this week,” coach Bill Belichick said. “He made a big play on that last year against them, on a fourth [down], a scramble play in that situation. [It was] an alert play on his part and a key first down for us -- one you usually don’t expect to get that way.”
Exactly, because a 37-year-old quarterback isn’t supposed to become more nimble at this stage of his career. But Brady has.
“He’s been working hard on his mobility stuff, takes that to heart,” Edelman said. “It’s always great seeing the big dog get out there and move the chains [and] fun to watch him get fired up after a run.”
It turns out Brady had it in his mind before the game that he might be taking off.
“It’s crazy because I actually told him, ‘If you break one today, you get down.’ And he was like, ‘No, I’m going to try and run somebody over,’” relayed receiver Brandon LaFell. “He always jokes around like that, and he actually did it.
“It was in slow motion, but it was good.”
“Oh man,” fullback James Develin added with a laugh. “Looked like a gazelle out there.”