Reporting David Elfin
It used to bother me when the Bullets/Wizards would market their games at Capital Centre or MCI Center by selling fans on the idea of coming to see such opposing superstars as Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant.
But now I’m going to be guilty of the same offense. Redskins fans should come to Landover on Sunday, not to watch the 4-8 burgundy and gold sans suspended pot-smokers Fred Davis and Trent Williams, but rather to see the other team.
Actually, I’m not talking about the entire New England Patriots squad that includes resurgent ex-Redskins pass rusher Andre Carter.
I’m suggesting that folks be on hand in The House That Jack Built and Dan Expanded to see history in the presence of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.
Since non-conference foes visit each other only every eight years and Brady is 34, this is your last chance to see him play here.
Amazingly Brady lost his only previous game at FedEx, 20-17 in 2003 to a wayward Redskins team coach by Steve Spurrier. Although New England was missing a boatload of starters, Brady still completed 25 of 38 passes for 289 yards with two touchdowns but also three interceptions as the Patriots slipped to 2-2.
They wouldn’t lose again, winning the second of what would be three Super Bowl titles in four years. That makes Brady one of just four quarterbacks to win more than two along with Hall of Famers Terry Bradshaw, Joe Montana and Troy Aikman.
Brady is 13-5 in postseason and his 120-35 (.774) regular season record makes him easily the most successful quarterback of the 46-year Super Bowl era. Only Brett Favre, John Elway, Dan Marino and Peyton Manning have won more games, but not at Brady’s clip.
And Brady is far from done. In the first two games of this season, he became the first quarterback to follow a 500-yard day with a 400-yard outing. His 3,032 yards through nine games were a record. He has led the Patriots to a 9-3 mark, tied for the best in the AFC. He’s second in the league with 30 touchdown passes and 3,916 yards. Only the record-setting season by Aaron Rodgers is preventing Brady from being the NFL’s top-rated passer.
“If he’s not the greatest, he’s gotta be in the top three,” said Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett, who’s in his 18th year as an NFL coach. “He’s poised, big, got an unbelievable arm, makes all the throws, can move enough to stay alive in the pocket, (his) leadership, understanding of the offense is outstanding. And he does it day-in and day-out.”
That he does. Brady has averaged 12 victories during his decade as New England’s quarterback (he missed 2008 with a torn ACL). In contrast, the Redskins haven’t won that many games since their last Super Bowl season, 1991, back when Brady was still in middle school.
“It was always easy with him controlling everything,” said Redskins receiver Donte Stallworth, who was one of Brady’s targets during New England’s 2007 AFC title season.
Redskins co-captain London Fletcher, who’s 2-11 against Brady, said he’s never matched wits with a better quarterback during his 14 seasons.
Nose tackle Barry Cofield started on the only team to beat Brady and the Patriots in a Super Bowl, the 2007 New York Giants, but he, too, raved about the man “You gotta hit him, you gotta harass him, you gotta bat balls, hopefully get an interception or two, maybe strip the ball,” Cofield said. “He’s a very tough guy. I’ve seen him take a lot of shots and he would pick himself up the next play and make a great throw on the very next play. The only way you can hurt Tom Brady is win.”
The Redskins won’t appreciate that 2003 upset on Sunday, but treat yourself and come watch one of the greatest quarterbacks ever strut his stuff. It’s a sight you’ll never see live in Landover again.
David Elfin has covered sports since he was a junior at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School in 1975. He is the Washington representative on the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee and is the author of the new book: “Washington Redskins: The Complete Illustrated History.” A pre-game regular on 106.7-The Fan during the 2010 Redskins season, he returned to the station as its blogger in March.