With two wins in three tries against Tom Brady, Cardinals defensive end Bertrand Berry can boast a rare run of success against the New England Patriots quarterback.
But Berry, who played for Denver until signing with Arizona in March, doesn’t claim to know any secrets about how to shut down Brady, who has lost just 12 of his 51 NFL starts (including playoffs) since getting the Patriots’ job in 2001. And he is certain the Cardinals will have a difficult time with Brady when he visits Sun Devil Stadium Sunday.
Brady is, in Berry’s estimation, the best quarterback in the NFL. It’s not hard to find people who agree.
“You judge a man by what he does on the field,” Berry said, “and what he does on the field is win.”
Peyton Manning is a great quarterback, the reigning co-MVP of the league, the likely choice to start a new franchise for many general managers. But Manning fizzled in the AFC championship game going head-to-head with Brady, and lost again when the two teams met in the NFL regular season opener.
Manning completed 16-of-29 passes for two touchdowns and one interception. Brady, though, was spectacular, completing 26-of-38 passes for 335 yards, with three touchdowns and an interception. The win was New England’s 16th straight.
That’s why, even as Donovan McNabb propels his Philadelphia Eagles toward a possible fourth straight NFC championship game, Steve McNair fights through injuries to make Tennessee a contender and Daunte Culpepper opens the 2004 season with a five-touchdown-pass performance, Brady continues to be the chic choice.
Statistics won’t hold up the argument. Brady has never had a passing rating above 86.5. His 300-yard game against the Colts is only the fourth he’s had during the winning streak.
There are other numbers Brady backers use.
Last season, Brady had just two games in which he threw more interceptions than touchdowns — the two games, not surprisingly, the Patriots lost. He’s 6-0 in playoff games. He’s 7-0 in games that have gone into overtime. He’s 28-4 in games played after Nov. 1.
In two Super Bowls, Brady has taken over on offense with less than 90 seconds left in a tie game and calmly driven his team to championship-winning field goals.
“He’s as close to Joe Montana as anyone I’ve ever seen,” former 49ers coach Bill Walsh told the Kansas City Star. “What strikes you about Brady is the serenity in which he plays the game. That might sound silly, but when you see a great quarterback, there’s a calmness and coolness he has on the field, a fluidity to his game, smoothness, if you will, that sticks out.”
Patriots coach Bill Belichick didn’t want to get into ranking his quarterback, although he did say, “I would like for him to be our quarterback more than anybody else.”
Brady has heard the comparisons to Montana, especially during last year’s Super Bowl. He’s had conversations with Montana, and admitted he can see some of the same characteristics in both he and the Hall of Famer.
But he doesn’t assume greatness. He’s got a long winning streak, his Super Bowl titles and another stellar showing against Indianapolis last week, but Wednesday he was again talking about what he needed to do to be better.
“There are 15 games to play,” Brady said. “I’m glad that we have a long way to go and there is much improvement to be made. You always wish that you start off doing everything right, but that is not the case.”
If Brady does find a way to perfect his game, the Patriots might be headed for another Super Bowl title — and that would cement Brady’s status among his peers. “His players believe in him and he delivers each and every week,” Berry said. “You have to really say he is the best.
“It will be a big challenge for us. But I believe we are up for it.”