A few questions about the Patriots as we contemplate the Zen of 59-0 and consider the severity of the international thrashing the winless Buccaneers are going to suffer in London on Sunday:
Question 1: Is Tom Brady the best cold-weather quarterback of all time?
With all due respect to Cold, Hard Football Facts favorite Bart Starr, the answer is yes, absolutely.
Admittedly, answering this question with truly empirical data is probably impossible — there are no official records of any kind in this category, other than the kickoff temperatures that appear in NFL game books, and those only go back to 2001.
But let’s just say there’s a preponderance of evidence in Brady’s favor, and Sunday’s snowy six-touchdown performance against the embarrassment called the Titans is just the latest example.
The first piece of evidence is that Brady’s 93.3 career passer rating is the fourth-best mark in history — and easily the best of any cold-weather quarterback.
No. 1 on the list, Steve Young (96.8), played in the perpetual autumn of San Francisco's Candlestick Park and he rarely dipped his toes into a cold-weather game, let alone a playoff blizzard. No. 2 Peyton Manning (95.3) and No. 3 Kurt Warner (93.7) have spent their entire careers coddled inside windless, air-conditioned domes. And, as Manning has shown, dome quarterbacks don’t do well in the elements.
(Brady, for his part, boasts a career passer rating of 100.3 indoors).
The No. 5 spot on the career passer rating list, just behind Brady, belongs to Philip Rivers (92.8), who plays in San Diego and can go surfing right after each playoff loss in January. Joe Montana (92.3), another perpetual-autumn QB from San Francisco, is No. 6.
Specifically, though, Brady has a critical mass of clutch performances in the snow and in some of the most frigid games on record that truly stand out in football history.
Remember, snow games in general are rare — the Patriots, playing in one of the snowiest markets in the NFL, had hosted just three snow games in their history (1960-2000) before Brady arrived on the scene. And he’s already played in eight snow games. The extraordinarily high number is one part pure coincidence and one part a function of the fact that the Patriots rarely played in January before Brady became the starting quarterback.
Whatever the reason, the results are indisputable. Here are 10 frosty outings, five from the playoffs, where Brady has set himself apart as the best snowy, cold-weather quarterback in history.
Jan. 19, 2002 — Patriots 16, Raiders 13
People remember the controversial “tuck rule.” But what they should also remember is that Brady, in just his 15th NFL start and first postseason game, was called upon to carry his team through a blizzard and was nearly flawless in the clutch, leading the Patriots to scores on three of their final four drives, including his own touchdown run. Rich Gannon and the Oakland offense could do nothing after taking a 13-3 lead into the fourth.
Brady: 32-of-52, 312 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT
Gannon: 17-of-31, 159 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT
Dec. 7, 2003 — Patriots 12, Dolphins 0
Hours after a Nor’easter nearly shut down Massachusetts, neither offense could get much going. Brady and the Pats put just a single field goal on the board. But Brady also avoided the critical mistake, while Miami quarterback Jay Fiedler threw a pick from his own end zone that was returned for an easy score by Tedy Bruschi that sealed the game and sparked an iconic wave of snowy fireworks around Gillette Stadium.
Brady: 16-of-31, 163 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT
Fiedler: 13-of-31, 111 yards, 0 TD, 2 INT
Dec. 14, 2003 — Patriots 27, Jaguars 13
The Jaguars tried to go pass-for-pass with the Patriots behind the spirited effort of Byron Leftwich. But, ultimately, he made the critical picks that always cost games, while Brady did not. The Jaguars scored just two field goals and trailed 27-6 before scoring a late touchdown in trash time.
Brady: 22-of-34, 228, 2 TD, 0 INT
Leftwich: 21-of-40, 288 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT
Jan. 10, 2004 — Patriots 17, Titans 14
It wasn’t snowing at Gillette in this divisional playoff game — but it was the coldest game in franchise history, a balmy 2 degrees at kickoff, with a wind-chill well below zero. The chill made it difficult to light the world on fire. But Brady, as usual, avoided the critical mistake (Steve McNair did not) in a game in which just one INT probably would have cost his team the victory.
Brady: 21-of-41, 201 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT
McNair: 18-of-26, 210 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
Jan. 18, 2004 — Patriots 24, Colts 14
In a season filled with memorable bad-weather games, the Patriots became what we believe is the first team to host three snow games in the same season in the AFC title tilt. League MVP Peyton Manning defied the laws of physics and melted in the snow and sub-freezing temperatures with a brutal four-INT day while Brady played the coldly efficient game that typified his style in his early years.
Brady: 22-of-37, 237 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
Manning: 23-of-47, 237 yards, 1 TD, 4 INT
Jan. 16, 2005 — Patriots 20, Colts 3
Frigid temps and snow once again welcomed the cozy-dome Colts, this time for a divisional playoff game at Gillette. Once again, the Indy offense, which had scored more than 500 points, froze up in the frigid elements. The Patriots ripped off three monster scoring drives and Brady once again avoided the critical mistake in the passing game.
Brady: 18-of-27, 144 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT
Manning: 27-of-42, 238 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT
Jan. 23, 2005 — Patriots 41, Steelers 27 (at Pittsburgh)
The 2004 AFC championship game was also the coldest game on record in Pittsburgh (single digits at kickoff). It also turned into what the Cold, Hard Football Facts consider Brady’s greatest single performance: a hugely efficient outing on a frigid night in a hostile arena against a 15-1 team that fielded the league’s top defense. Brady channeled the spirit of Bart Starr and was flawless in the elements while his opponent, rookie Ben Roethlisberger, was not.
Brady: 14-of-21, 207 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT
Roethlisberger: 14-of-24, 226 yards, 2 TD, 3 INT
Dec. 4, 2005 — Patriots 16, Jets 3
In a heavyweight-vs.-lightweight matchup that the league should have had the mercy not to schedule, Brady easily out-performed Jets backup Brooks Bollinger on another snowy day in Foxboro.
Brady: 27 of 37, 271 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT
Bollinger: 15 of 37, 135 yards, 0 TD 1 INT
Dec. 11, 2005 — Patriots 35, Bills 7 (at Buffalo)
Brady lit up the overmatched Bills on a day that offered everything from blizzard-like snowfall to swirling winds, while J.P. Losman struggled to connect with anybody but Patriots defenders.
Brady: 29-of-38, 329 yards, 2 TD, 2 INT
Losman: 10-of-27, 181 yards, 1 TD, 3 INT
Oct. 18, 2009 — Patriots 59, Titans 0
You know the story: The first October snow game in Patriots history, one of the few in league history, turned into the biggest NFL rout in 33 years and perhaps the biggest mismatch of quarterback performances that the league has ever seen.
Brady: 29-of-34, 380 yards, 6 TD, 0 INT
Collins/Young: 2-of-14, -7 yards, 0 TD, 2 INT
Sure, you can argue that there have been other, better, cold-weather quarterbacks.
But we know this: When Brady hangs up the cleats and prepares his speech for Canton, the images of his career that will linger most in the minds of the public will be that of him dropping back into the pocket on snowy, frost-filled nights in Foxboro, cinematic flakes falling around him, once again leading his team to victory over his opponent and over the elements.
Question 2: Is it OK for WEEI to run up the ratings on the other stations?
Of course it is. In fact, it’s a ridiculous question, right? The job of a competitive radio station — or any business — is to crush the opposition, steal all its listeners, drive up your revenue and dominate the market place.
So, why do sports fans get their panties in a bunch when one team humiliates their opponent on the field of battle? It’s one thing in high school or college. But not in the pros.
In fact, as far as the Cold, Hard Football Facts are concerned, the Patriots blew a perfect chance to make history on Sunday. The biggest blowout in NFL annals took place in the 1940 championship game, when the Bears pummeled the Redskins, 73-0, thanks to their brand new T-formation that brought the modern quarterback position to pro football.
The Patriots, meanwhile, held a 59-0 lead at the end of the third quarter Sunday. With a measly two more touchdowns, they would have matched the biggest victory in league history.
We would have kept the foot on the gas.
And, in case you’re wondering, that’s exactly what Bears coach George Halas did in the 1940 title game. Chicago scored three touchdowns in the fourth quarter and the Redskins, for their part, took it like men.
Washington’s Sammy Baugh was asked after the game what would have happened had his sure touchdown pass early in the game not been dropped.
“We would have lost 73-7,” he deadpanned.
The soft, politically correct NFL of today probably would have sent in grief counselors.
Question No. 3: Other than that, Mrs. Fisher, how was the game?
It’s hard to believe the Titans have fallen so far, so fast.
Not only were the Titans 13-3 last year, they were No. 3 in the NFL in the all-important defensive passer rating category (69.2) and had surrendered just 12 touchdown passes all year.
This year, they’ve already surrendered 19 touchdown passes through six games and have an atrocious 117.5 defensive passer rating. The single-season record for worst defensive passer rating ever was set by last year’s Lions (110.8).
So, it was a great performance by the Patriots Sunday … but it came against a team that’s suddenly as bad as any we’ve seen in decades.
Question No. 4: Has Bill Belichick regained his mojo?
A lot of Patriots fans weren’t happy with our assertion here last week that Belichick had lost his mojo.
Hey, look, it sucks to hear. But the numbers are what the numbers are. And the numbers tell us that the Patriots have not fielded an elite pass defense since winning their last Super Bowl and, when they have had a decent pass defense, it’s been torched in critical moments in the playoffs.
So, shutting down Kerry Collins in a snowstorm doesn’t quite match up to the lofty expectations we all have for a Belichick defense.
Call us in February, after he’s embarrassed an elite quarterback such as Peyton Manning or Drew Brees, like his defenses used to do in the old days.
Question 5: I’m heading to London this weekend. Where should I drink?
You’ve come to the right man. I’ve spent a ton of time in London writing about the local food and drink scene. It’s one of the great epic cities of the world and you’ll have a great time. The pubs and the beer, especially the locally made Fuller’s and Young’s, are awesome. If you got the time, check out some of my favorite watering holes:
Founders Arms (52 Hopton St., London) — A modern pub serving Young’s beers right on the River Thames with an awesome view of St. Paul’s Cathedral. Killer location.
The Grenadier (18 Wilton Row, London) — This used to be the officer’s mess for the Duke of Wellington and his staff. It’s allegedly where they invented beef Wellington — beef tenderloin wrapped in flaky pastry. They still serve it today. There is an NFL connection: Giants owner Wellington Mara was named in honor of the British war hero. His dad, Giants founder Tim Mara, called his son “the Duke.” The NFL’s official football — called “The Duke” — is named in his honor.
Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese (145 Fleet St., London) — A rambling Dickensian haunt right in the middle of the city with a basement bar, several pubs and parlors overlooking Fleet Street. A perfect place to soak in London history.
The White Horse Tavern (1-3 Parsons Green, London) — A gorgeous pub and one of the world’s best beer bars, with an outdoor beer garden. It’s walking distance from Stamford Bridge, home of the famous Chelsea soccer team.
Question 6: I’m staying here in the States. What should I eat to get in the spirit?
Well, got this covered, too. You know the British Beer Co.? There’s one right on Route 1 in Walpole a few miles from Gillette. It’s a great spot for British beer and food.
Here’s its recipe for beer battered fish & chips:
• 2 8-ounce haddock or cod filets
• 1/2 cup fresh julienned potato (or store-bought fries)
• 3/4 cup Fuller's London Pride (or other beer)
• 1/4 cup flour
• 1 teaspoon baking powder
• 1 teaspoon cornmeal
• 6 cups canola oil
Heat the oil in a heavy-duty fry pan or Dutch oven to 350 degrees. Mix the flour, baking powder and cornmeal in a big bowl or disposable aluminum pan then add beer to desired thickness, creating something similar to pancake batter. Cook potatoes (or fries) in oil for about 3-4 minutes then drain them on paper towels. Dredge fish in batter and cook in oil until internal temperature reaches 180 degrees (about 6-8 minutes). Place the fries on the plate, top with the fish and serve with malt vinegar, tartar sauce, lemon and a pint of Fuller’s London Pride or beer of your choice.