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Sorting the Sunday Pile: Could Tom Brady repeat 2010 this year?

By Will Brinson | NFL Writer

November 2010. Pats are 6-2. People are wringing their hands and spilling ink over Tom Brady's performance on the heels of an embarrassing Patriots loss to the Browns. Next up in Pittsburgh, Brady shreds the Steelers and then proceeds to not throw an interception for the rest of the season en route to an MVP award. I'm not saying that Sunday's win over the Steelers is going to get Brady on that kind of roll but there are too many similarities to ignore.

In 2010 Brady entered Week 10 against the Steelers averaging 228 yards a game, completing 63.6 percent of his passes with 14 touchdowns and four picks. Those numbers are clearly better than what Brady was putting up heading into this week, but not substantially.

TB Thru 8 Weeks
Comp %
Yard/Game
TD
INT
Yards/Att
Tom Brady 2010
63.6
228
14
4
7.4
Tom Brady 2013
55.6
228
9
6
5.9

There are clear differences here and it being three years later, the red flags are worth discussing. But it's possible that a lack of personnel -- and perhaps a hand injury? -- led to Brady's horrible start to 2013. He has made lots of bad throws this season but he had, per Pro Football Focus, the third-highest drop percentage in the NFL through eight weeks.

And that's what really stood out in Brady's demolishing of Dick LeBeau's defense -- the Steelers gave up 55 points, the most in franchise history -- on Sunday. Rob Gronkowski looked svelte, he looked faster and he caught a career-high nine passes for 143 yards, the third-highest total of his career. Aaron Dobson is starting to come on, having hopped Kenbrell Thompkins on the depth chart.

Stevan Ridley thumped all over the Steelers on Sunday, running for 115 yards on 26 carries. Danny Amendola -- who scored his first touchdown as a Pat on Sunday -- was finally the effective player New England thought it had gotten this offseason. The Patriots get Shane Vereen back soon.

If you've been paying attention around these parts you've read plenty about the Patriots being just fine over the long haul. Bill Belichick doesn't care about his team in September. January is what matters for them.

In 2010 New England finished 14-2 to finish out the season despite the concern that emanated from the press after Brady's bad game against Cleveland dropped the Pats to 6-2. Again, Brady didn't throw a single interception the rest of the regular season.

He completed 68.4 percent of his passes over eight weeks, averaging 259 yards per game and tossing 22 touchdowns. Another similarity between then and now? Gronk emerged down the stretch as a top red-zone target for New England. He's back and looks incredibly healthy. When he's at full strength Brady is a completely different quarterback.

He showed that in 2010 and he showed it again Sunday in New England's throttling of Pittsburgh. If he turns it up another gear going forward don't be shocked in the slightest.

At the very least, hanging a 50 burger on someone's worth a high five or two.

Worst 9-0 Team?
For whatever reason there's a ton of people yelling on Twitter about the Chiefs. It seems a certain writer is inciting Chiefs fans with talk of them being the worst 9-0 team of all-time. Are they? Let's look at the other 18 teams that went 9-0 and figure it out.

Just to make things a little quicker, I eliminated some teams. If they're considered an all-time great team (1972 Dolphins, 1985 Bears) or won a Super Bowl (1998 Broncos, 2009 Saints) they're off the list. If they have Peyton Manning under center (2005, '06, '09 Colts) they're off the list. Same with Joe Montana (1990 49ers), Aaron Rodgers (2011 Packers), Dan Marino (1984 Dolphins) or Tom Brady (2007 Patriots). A great quarterback on a high-quality team would trump anything KC brings. I'm also removing the 1973 and '75 Vikings because they did it twice in the span of three seasons. The 1969 Los Angeles Rams were a pre-merger team so they're disqualified as well. (Plus Roman Gabriel was MVP.)

So who does that leave us with? Just two teams.

2003 Chiefs: Well this is kind of funny isn't it? Ten years ago the Chiefs pulled this off, only with a totally different team. They had Priest Holmes busting out for a monster 1,420-yard season and a ridiculous 31 rushing touchdowns. This was Dante Hall's epic joystick season. The defense had good players but wasn't dominant. The Chiefs lost their first playoff game to Manning's Colts. You could definitely make a case they were worse but I'll take offense over defense.

2008 Titans: Ohhh. Is this the perfect comparison? Really good defense with a stacked defensive line (Albert Haynesworth, Kyle Vanden Bosch, Jevon Kearse) an "air back" Chris Johnson (just like Jamaal Charles!) in the backfield and a game-managing quarterback in Kerry Collins. Dude averaged 167.3 yards per game! If I'm picking I'll take 2013 Charles over 2008 CJ2K. I'm probably taking Alex Smith over Collins, too. The best receiver -- Justin Gage! -- doens't hold a candle to Dwayne Bowe. And the Chiefs defense might be better overall, too.

The Titans eventually finished 13-3 in the regular season and, after a first-round bye, lost in the divisional round of the playoffs to the Ravens. A similar fate might await the 2013 Chiefs but you could definitely make the case they're a better 9-0 team than the Titans in 2008.

Note: The 2009 Titans started 0-6, including a 59-0 loss to the Patriots.

Foles' Errand
I give up on trying to figure out whether Nick Foles is "the guy" for Chip Kelly. I do know this though: Homeboy threw seven touchdowns on Sunday afternoon. That's insanity. Also insane? Foles still hasn't thrown an interception this season.

His seven touchdowns on Sunday were more than he had all season before this. He finished with more touchdowns (7) on Sunday than he had incompletions (6). This was Chip Kelly's offense rolling the way it's supposed to. Foles' offensive line blocked for him and kept his pocket clean and he spread the ball around. The other thing? His receivers were wide open.

Seriously, take a look at the dudes who caught the touchdown passes Sunday:

The Raiders are a bad team but they had the same record as the Eagles coming in. This was supposed to be a competitive game. Oakland was favored. The Raiders definitely forgot to cover in more than one sense.

Foles was fantastic. A couple of those scores were actually contested. I'm not trying to discount his performance. But let's make sure and note how terrible the coverage was and how well-schemed his receivers were.

Sleeping Cats
The Panthers are absolutely a Super Bowl contender. What's truly remarkable is how quickly it happened. A month ago there were rumors circulating wildly that the team was prepping to try and find a new coach after this season. Maybe Ron Rivera still gets fired; the Panthers are far from a lock to make the playoffs.

But for now they're rolling. Over the past four games -- all wins -- Carolina has managed to dominate teams, accumulating a plus-82 point differential.

I've said this several weeks in a row but we're going to know a lot about Carolina in two more weeks, once the Panthers play the 49ers in San Francisco and the Pats at home. Both teams are good and both games are after their respective byes. Jonathan Stewart is back and looked pretty good. The defense is playing out of its mind and Luke Kuechly might actually end up being a Defensive Player of the Year candidate. (Who knew!)

This is a team on the rise and one that looks confident. Checking their pulse after these next two games -- 1-1 would be a pretty strong effort -- will be fascinating.

Poor Playcalling
Don't get at all what the Chargers were thinking late against the Redskins. After Philip Rivers hit Danny Woodhead for what looked like a would-be touchdown, NFL officials reversed the score because Woodhead was out of bounds when his leg hit the pylon.

Even weirder was the Bolts' playcalling at the end of the game. Starting from the 1-yard line, they promptly ran Woodhead out of the shotgun once and attempted two passes. This despite having a timeout remaining and needing almost no yardage. A Rivers sneak probably would've gotten it done.

Instead a Nick Novak field goal resulted in overtime, where the Redskins won. I've praised Mike McCoy and Ken Whisenhunt a lot this year for the work they've done with Rivers. They deserve it. But Sunday afternoon's late playcalling was Norv Turner-esque and it probably cost the Chargers the game.

Replacing Reggie
One of the things that really stood out from the first half of Colts-Texans was the lack of Reggie Wayne. Losing him is huge, obviously, but it looked bigger than maybe any of us knew. Wayne wasn't there to make critical catches for Andrew Luck and extend drives. The Texans had their way on both sides of the ball with Indy.

Then T.Y. Hilton showed why everyone's such a big fan, with an epic second-half performance.

First he made this shoeless snag:

And then Hilton brought the Colts back into the game completely with this long bomb and ensuing dance:

These two catches are a superb example of what Hilton can do. He's a dangerous deep threat and also a red-zone target for Luck. Does that sound like a younger Wayne? Why yes it does. Hilton won't be as sure-handed and he won't be as smooth on his routes. Wayne has more practice though.

Hilton is capable of stepping up, as he showed Sunday night when hijacking the show from Andre Johnson and Case Keenum.

Mr. Stacy
Maybe you missed it because the Rams aren't that good, but Zac Stacy is emerging as a legit old-school running back. The Vanderbilt product is a three-down back who's producing despite Kellen Clemens being in the backfield with him.

Look at this run against the Titans on Sunday, with St. Louis down seven points, nine minutes remaining in the fourth quarter and the Rams holding the ball on their side of the field:

Stacy takes the ball hard into the teeth of the defense, meets contact, shrugs off a tackle and bounces it outside for another 20-plus yards.

The NFL is a quarterback-driven league, no doubt. But finding a high-quality running back late in the draft can be a tremendous boon to your offense. The Rams took forever to make the move to Stacy but it's paying massive dividends right now. The kid is legit.

GIF O' THE WEEK
Speaking of beasty running backs ... Adrian Peterson is a damn man.

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