Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
It's safe to say that Boston sports fans have had better weeks.
The Celtics are about a box of Honey Nut Cheerios away from being blown up by Danny Ainge.
The Red Sox's biggest offseason signing to date is a first baseman who hit .227 last year and has a chronic hip condition (not to mention that Terry Francona just penned a book ripping Red Sox ownership).
The Bruins lost to the hated New York Rangers in nauseating fashion on Wednesday night (Marian Gaborik scored the game-winner less than a minute into overtime).
And then there's the Patriots.
Calling Sunday's meltdown against Baltimore a catastrophe would be putting it lightly. This one felt more like the Titanic hitting an iceberg.
As Tom Brady rested on the turf watching the game slip away in the fourth quarter, it felt like the end of a dynasty.
Apparently KC Joyner thought so as well. The ESPN NFL insider wrote an article on this very subject earlier today. The headline read: "Tom Brady's decline has begun."
There was no question mark at the end of the title. Joyner wasn't asking our opinion. He declared with 100 percent certainty that Brady is not the quarterback he used to be.
If we base our belief in Brady's talent solely on Sunday's performance, then Joyner is absolutely right. Plain and simple, Brady stunk against the Ravens.
That's not to say Brady, who went 29-for-54, 320 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT, deserves all of the blame. Plenty went wrong on Sunday.
Wes Welker got drop-happy. The offensive line played flatter than an IHOP short stack. Even Bill Belichick goofed up (his clock mismanagement may have cost the Pats a touchdown at the end of the first half).
All of these mishaps contributed to the loss, but ultimately Brady's inconsistency is what we'll remember most from Sunday's comedy of errors at Gillette Stadium.
It's understandable why Joyner would be pessimistic about Brady's future. Brady will be 36 when he takes his next snap, and there's a good chance his security blanket Welker won't be around in 2013 (he'll be a free agent unless New England gives him the franchise tag).
I said it's understandable. I didn't say I agreed with it.
Brady threw for 4,827 yards this season. That's more than he threw for in 2007, the year he broke the all-time single-season passing touchdown record.
2012 marked the third season in a row Brady has thrown for at least 34 touchdowns. That's only happened one other time in NFL history. Brett Favre had three straight seasons of 34-plus touchdowns between 1995 and 1997.
Seven-time Pro Bowler Drew Brees threw 19 interceptions this season. By comparison, Brady has thrown 24 picks in his last three seasons combined.
Does that sound like a guy who's washed up to you?
It's laughable to say Brady is a worse player now than he was when he won three Super Bowls earlier in his career. Here are Brady's stats from his Super Bowl-winning seasons in 2001, 2003 and 2004:
2001: 18 TD, 12 INT, 2,843 yards, 86.5 QB rating
2003: 23 TD, 12 INT, 3,620 yards, 85.9 QB rating
2004: 28 TD, 14 INT, 3,692, yards, 92.6 QB rating
Now look at how he's fared over the last three seasons:
2010: 36 TD, 4 INT, 3,900 yards, 111.0 QB rating
2011: 39 TD, 12 INT, 5,232 yards, 105.6 QB rating
2012: 34 TD, 8 INT, 4,827 yards, 98.7 QB rating
Brady's like a fine wine: he gets better with age.
Here's another thing that drives me crazy: the assertion that Brady hasn't been the same player since tearing his ACL in 2008.
That's ludicrous. Though he doesn't have a ring to show for it, Brady has actually been better in the postseason post-injury (86.2 QB rating in the playoffs since 2009, compared to 84.2 before the injury).
To me, the problem is simple. Brady isn't crumbling. He just can't beat the Ravens.
Feel better now, Patriots fans? (Probably not)
If Denver had just taken care of business against Baltimore like they were supposed to, we probably wouldn't be having this "Brady in decline" discussion right now.
The Ravens have always been Brady's Kryptonite. Out of all the teams in the NFL, Baltimore is the only one Brady has thrown more interceptions than touchdowns against (8 TD, 10 INT in eight games). His 72.1 QB rating versus Baltimore is his lowest against any opponent. So is his 57.7 completion percentage.
Brady actually played fairly well at Baltimore during the regular season (335 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT), but that Ravens team wasn't the same as the one he faced in the playoffs. Inspired by Ray Lewis' retirement and finally fully healthy on defense (reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year Terrell Suggs was hurt for the previous matchup between the two teams), the Ravens were a team possessed on Sunday.
So let's not lose our heads, people. Brady is going to be fine. He didn't even have Rob Gronkowski to throw to for most of the season's second half, and look what he was still able to accomplish.
Brady should be in for another Hall of Fame-caliber season in 2013. Just don't expect him to beat the Ravens.
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