2007 season changed NFL passing forever

2007 season changed NFL passing forever

For a man who has won seven Super Bowls, it’s odd to say that a season where Tom Brady didn’t win one might be the highlight of his career.

It’s also strange to think that Brady hadn’t yet become Tom Effin Brady by then, despite having already won three Super Bowls.

But that’s how Brady’s 2007 should be remembered: the season he broke through and changed the game.

The loss to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII taints this team’s legacy somewhat when compared to some of the league’s all-time titanic clubs.

Despite the Patriots’ still unprecedented 18-0 start, the 17-14 loss to the New York Giants is probably the only thing keeping this club from being widely recognized as the best of the best of all time. (And don’t forget Brady’s 72-yard throw over Randy Moss that day in the dying seconds, inches from the most legendary completion of their two careers.)

Still, Brady’s accomplishments this season cannot be ignored, despite all the individual and team successes he has had before and since. In many ways, 2007 propelled him into the GOAT conversation – and changed the whole game in its wake.

Tom Brady and the 2007 New England Patriots made sure every opponent knew they wouldn’t stop until the game was over. (Photo by Rob Tringali/Sportschrome/Getty Images)

Tom Brady’s 2007 season was a Trojan horse

Brady admitted in ESPN’s “Man in the Arena” documentary that the Patriots won that game, maybe “the desire is a little different.” He suggested that “maybe I would have been fulfilled – not to stop playing then, but I don’t know, maybe I’ll be playing another seven or eight years and I’m fulfilled.”

Instead, he played 15 more. He won four more Super Bowls and two MVPs. Perhaps Brady’s 2007 season was the Trojan horse that no one, not even him, saw coming.

Now that Brady has called it a career, it’s easy to forget what an out-of-body experience this season has been. The happy pass era was already in full swing by then, but this season raised the bar to heights never seen before.

The story continues

Some of his records and those of the 2007 Patriots have since been surpassed. But like Dan Marino in 1984, Joe Montana in 1989, Kurt Warner in 1999, Patrick Mahomes in 2018 or Lamar Jackson in 2019, certain QB seasons will remain forever engraved in the annals of the league.

When Brady and the Patriots played David against Warner and the Goliath Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI, Brady was largely tasked with playing smart, safe football and handing the game over to Bill Belichick and the Nova Scotia defense. England.

His game-winning drive – when many, including John Madden, begged New England to play overtime – propelled Brady into a new stratosphere. Although he failed to win the Super Bowl six years later, Brady’s superpowers had been fully realized.

And the league probably wouldn’t look like it does today without Brady, Belichick and the Patriots reinventing what the passing game could be.

Tom Brady and the Patriots tried to ‘kill’ every team they faced

After their loss to the Indianapolis Colts in the 2006 AFC Championship, one of the weirdest and best non-Super Bowl games ever, the Patriots weren’t about to revive it next season with Reche Caldwell, Jabar Gaffney and a down Troy Brown at receiver.

The first move was to trade for Wes Welker (of their division rival Miami, no less). Then came Randy Moss for a pittance (a fourth-round draft pick who became the immortal John Bowie). After that, he signed Donté Stallworth for just $3.5 million guaranteed.

Brady was now armed and ready. The league had no idea what was going to happen next.

Moss did not play during the preseason. Local media assumed it was just Randy who was Randy and the Patriots just flushed the 110th pick down the toilet.

Week 1, Moss showed up. Nine catches, 183 yards and a 51-yard bomb — sharing double coverage — later, the NFL got a taste of what was to come.

Week 2 brought another big story: Spygate. The Patriots and Belichick were fined (Belichick reportedly wrote Roger Goodell a personal check for the $500,000 he was docked), and the team was stripped of its first-round pick in 2008.

The illegal videotape the Patriots made of the Jets’ side calls that day was destroyed. The stigma of cheating has stayed with them for years.

It was then that Belichick unleashed his vendetta against the league, or so the story goes. He couldn’t have taken that approach without a quarterback he trusted. Brady was at the start of his powers, and the Patriots went from one of the worst receiving corps in the NFL to one of the best.

Launch codes have been released. The goal, Brady admitted that season, was to go out and “kill teams.” For a fairly buttoned-up guy, that’s a boastful statement.

Tom Brady (12) and the 2007 Patriots had firepower and a desire to go out and “kill teams.” (Photo by Barry Chin/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

They supported him. The Patriots have scored 331 points in their first eight games. Twelve NFL teams have failed to score that many all season. New England scored 314 points…on the road. The Patriots have scored 41 more touchdowns than their opponents. In their 16-0 season, 10 wins have come by 21 or more points.

It was a sight to behold. Perhaps the best indication of their early season greatness was Dallas’ Week 6 victory over the previously 5-0 Cowboys. Dallas took a 24-21 lead early in the third quarter after a sack from Brady. The Patriots torched them in the final 20 minutes of the game, winning 48-27 with Belichick upping the score with two late touchdowns.

It was as if the roof had been blown off the old Texas stadium on that hot, humid day. Uninvited, Cowboys head coach Wade Phillips shook his head and began his postgame press conference looking like a man who didn’t know what had just crushed him.

“I guess they’re so good,” said Phillips, the best he could find at the time.

It was the most unstoppable offense the NFL had seen so far — better than the Vikings of 1998 and the “Greatest Show on Turf” Rams of 1999 or 2001, take your pick.

The one-year leap Brady made — in his eighth season, at age 30 — defied explanation. He led the NFL in completion percentage (68.9), passing yards (4,806), touchdown passes (50), and yards per attempt (8.3). While throwing just eight interceptions and being sacked 21 times.

The previous year, Brady threw for three-quarters of the yards and less than half that number of touchdowns, while throwing more picks, on just 62 fewer passes. It was like watching Luke Skywalker go from boy to man between “Empire” and “Return.”

Credit the Giants for finding a way to slow Brady and the Patriots down, and honestly, the Chargers pretty much did the same thing two weeks earlier in the AFC title game. But the mark Brady and the Patriots left on the league that season was indelible.

Reshaping the modern NFL passing game

Suddenly, even with the Patriots losing the Super Bowl, everyone seemingly went on open passing attacks. They wanted a deep threat like Moss. They wanted the Welker-esque slot receiver. They wanted big, athletic tight ends to go with a rock-solid offensive line.

The groundswell was palpable, even if the results did not immediately bear fruit elsewhere. After all, you needed Brady-level talent at quarterback to make it work. It’s hard to say the Patriots haven’t changed the way teams view the passing game.

Prior to 2007, NFL teams averaged over 214.3 yards per game (the league average that year) only once, in 1995. In 13 of the following 14 seasons, the league exceeded averaged that mark, peaking at 243.8 in 2015.

The Patriots set what was then a run-scoring record with 589 that year (since beaten by Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos in 2013). Since then, 14 of the 22 most successful teams of all time have recorded their ratings.

It wasn’t just the passing game that Brady helped change; it was the mentality to score every time. The Patriots had 15 of 21 fourth downs in 2007. Only five teams have had more attempts this season, including four by teams with losing records.

These franchises went there out of necessity. The Patriots went there because they could; if they smelled blood, they were going to kill. They could have gone even further if their offense hadn’t been so prolific on first, second and third down.

It took the league a while to get back on that one. Analytics was in its teens, at best. Suspicions about fourth-down aggression were still high two years later when Belichick called Brady to go fourth-and-second from his own 28-yard line with Manning on the other sideline.

As Brady moves away, maybe the idea of ​​seeing something like what happened in 2007 as well. Quarterbacks are raised differently now, with dual-threat talent populating the position like never before. . He could have been the last vestige of the true master key legend, at least of this generation.

Manning then broke Brady’s TD mark in 2007. Brady’s 4,806 passing yards now sits 31st all-time – behind Jameis Winston and Kirk Cousins. Even Brady has exceeded that number three times.

The magic and significance of Brady’s 2007 cannot be taken away. If we do it right, we have to judge players against their contemporaries, against when and where they played. And during this season, despite losing the Super Bowl, no quarterback had played at this level before.

That many were inspired to pursue this level of greatness shows just how historic and groundbreaking Brady’s 2007 season was.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *