All that pregame dissection of Tebow’s throwing motion and Tebow’s beliefs and Tebow’s leadership and Tebow’s deficiencies seemed downright silly, because the vastly superior player, Brady, and the clearly superior team, New England, won in a never-in-doubt romp, 45-10, in which Brady tied an NFL playoff record with six touchdown passes.
“I think, as a team, we were looking for this all year,” defensive tackle Vince Wilfork said. “What a great time to put it all together.”
So take a moment to give Tebow his due, put his season to rest, and wonder about his future later. Take several moments, though, to appreciate what Brady did before a Gillette Stadium crowd of 68,756, whose applause was muffled only by ski gloves. He threw five touchdown passes in the first half alone. Three of those went to superhuman tight end Rob Gronkowski, who hauled in 10 balls for 145 yards and tied the mark for receiving scores in a playoff game.
Overall, Brady hit on 26 of his 34 throws, including all three he threw on the Patriots’ opening touchdown drive, and all five he threw on the back-breaking final touchdown drive of the first half, which took all of 64 seconds.
“I’ve seen him like this,” said wide receiver Deion Branch, whose 61-yard touchdown reception from Brady put New England up 28-7. “But hopefully, that’s not the best he’ll be.”
When his night was done, Brady had racked up 363 yards, a new franchise postseason record, and the Patriots had scored more points than in any of the other 36 playoff games in their history. More importantly, Brady and the Patriots won their first postseason game since Jan. 20, 2008, the AFC Championship Game against San Diego. Since then, they were upset in Super Bowl XLII by the New York Giants, lost a home playoff game to Baltimore following the 2009 season, and lost a home playoff game to the New York Jets following the 2010 season.
“It’s all about winning,” Brady said. “You lose a few playoff games, it’s a very bitter way to end a season. It sits on your mind for quite a long time.”
They rinsed it out Saturday night. New England easily earned the right to host the winner of Sunday’s Baltimore-Houston game for the AFC title. Brady now has more playoff victories with one team, 15, than any quarterback in history. Win next week, and advance to his fifth Super Bowl, and he’ll tie Joe Montana for the most postseason wins of all-time.