On Now
Coming Up
  • Tue., Feb. 27, 2018 12:00 AM MST NFL Scouting Combine begins Feb. 27-March 5: NFL Scouting Combine, Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, Indiana.
  • Mon., Mar. 12, 2018 12:00 AM MDT Clubs may negotiate with unrestricted free agents March 12-14: Clubs are permitted to contact, and enter into contract negotiations with, the certified agents of players who will become Unrestricted Free Agents upon the expiration of their 2017 player contracts at 4:00 p.m., New York time, on March 14. However, a contract cannot be executed with a new club until 4:00 p.m., New York time, on March 14.
  • Wed., Mar. 14, 2018 2:00 PM MDT 2018 league year and free agency period begin

    Prior to 4:00 p.m., New York time, clubs must exercise options for 2018 on all players who have option clauses in their 2017 contracts.

    Prior to 4:00 p.m., New York time, clubs must submit qualifying offers to their Restricted Free Agents with expiring contracts to retain a Right of First Refusal/Compensation.

    Prior to 4:00 p.m., New York time, clubs must submit a minimum salary tender to retain exclusive negotiating rights to their players with expiring 2017 contracts who have fewer than three accrued seasons of free agency credit.

    Top 51 begins. All clubs must be under the 2018 salary cap prior to 4:00 p.m., New York time.

    All 2017 player contracts will expire at 4:00 p.m., New York time.

    The 2018 league year and free agency period begin at 4:00 p.m., New York time.

    The first day of the 2018 league year will end at 11:59:59 p.m., New York time, on March 14. Clubs will receive a personnel notice that will include all transactions submitted to the league office during the period between 4:00 p.m., New York time, and 11:59:59 p.m., New York time, on March 14.

    The first day of the 2018 league year will end at 11:59:59 p.m., New York time, on March 14. Clubs will receive a personnel notice that will include all transactions submitted to the league office during the period between 4:00 p.m., New York time, and 11:59:59 p.m., New York time, on March 14.

    Trading period for 2018 begins at 4:00 p.m., New York time, after expiration of all 2017 contracts.

  • Sun., Mar. 25, 2018 12:00 AM MDT Annual League Meetings begin March 25-28: Annual League Meetings, Orlando, Florida.
  • Mon., Apr. 16, 2018 12:00 AM MDT Clubs with returning head coaches may begin offseason workout programs April 16: Clubs with returning head coaches may begin offseason workout programs.
  • Thu., Apr. 26, 2018 6:00 PM MDT 2018 NFL Draft begins April 26-28: 2018 NFL Draft, AT&T Stadium, Arlington, TX.
Print
RSS

Five to Watch: 4. Tom Brady

Posted Jan 17, 2014

Independent analyst Andrew Mason continues his look at five key players in Sunday's AFC Championship Game with Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This week, independent analyst Andrew Mason will take a closer look at five players to watch in this Sunday's AFC Championship Game. Fourth on the list: Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The mention of the name "Tom Brady" doesn't require any adjectives. The same thing can be said for Peyton Manning, which helps make Sunday's game arguably the most anticipated conference championship in recent NFL history.

And frankly, what can be noted about Brady that has not been written before?

But even though "Manning vs. Brady" is the marquee matchup, it's an inaccurate assessment of what looms Sunday. Unless one or the other stuns their teams, onlookers and the entire football-watching nation by lining up on defense, Manning will not face Brady, or vice versa.

Brady will face a Denver defense that had allowed just 27 points in 11 quarters until leaking 17 points in the fourth quarter last Sunday. In Weeks 1-15, the defense allowed 24.6 points per 60 minutes; from Weeks 16-17 and through the first three quarters last Sunday, that average dropped to 9.8 points per 60 minutes.

Much of that is due to the Broncos' success at disguising their pass rushes, to supplement an injury-transformed front four with blitzes. But Brady is one of the finest quarterbacks in league history at identifying pressure before it arrives, and is rarely rattled.

Brady has thrown for less than 200 yards in three consecutive games, but the Patriots won them all. They didn't need big numbers from Brady, not when their ground game was at its most effective in years.

So key could rest in takeaways. That sounds like a plan, but takeaways are difficult to procure from the unflappable quarterback. Nevertheless, the Patriots have lost all four times the last two seasons when Brady had a negative interception-to-touchdown margin, including in last year's AFC Championship defeat to Baltimore.

All four of those occasions, Brady had a margin barely in the negative: minus-1 each time. But the 0-4 mark in those games offers a stark contrast to the 26-5 record in all other games in that span.

Thus, the Broncos could take some chances in pressure and coverage. Those tactics might lead to some completions and long gains, but an interception or two is the best -- and perhaps only -- way to knock Brady a bit off-kilter, and force the mistakes that he's not going to make on his own.

"That’s obviously our game plan. We want to hit him as much as possible and see if we can get to him," said Broncos defensive end Shaun Phillips. "A guy like that doesn’t get rattled too much, but if we can keep the ball out of his hand and keep pressure on him, I think it’s in our benefit."