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CBSSports.com Senior NFL Columnist

Brady's Teflon suit wears thin after latest blown opportunity

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Justin Tuck added to Brady's pain with a slamming third-quarter sack. (US Presswire)  
Justin Tuck added to Brady's pain with a slamming third-quarter sack. (US Presswire)  

INDIANAPOLIS -- Is Tom Brady as immune to criticism as he is having a hair out of place?

I know pointing out flaws on a guy with three Super Bowl rings is like picking out flaws on his runway-model wife, but they are there. Sunday night, moments after Brady and the New England Patriots lost their second Super Bowl in the past four years to the New York Giants -- as favorites in both, huge favorites in the first one -- the blame started being distributed elsewhere, mostly at Wes Welker and the receivers.

Sure, there were some drops, but the ball Welker dropped on the second-to-last possession was not a good throw by Brady. Welker was running inside and the pass was outside. He had to spin around just to try to catch it. Could he have caught it? Yes. Was it a good throw? Not a chance.

So what do we hear? Brady threw it that way to keep it away from the heat-seeking missile of a safety?

No, it was a bad throw.

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He followed that with a bad throw in the middle of the field to Deion Branch, who was open, but the pass was behind him.

The Patriots lost. Brady is getting used to that in the postseason.

He has morphed from Mr. Clutch to Mr. Choke in the biggest games. The last time Brady won a Super Bowl was in January 2005. That's a long, long time ago by quarterback and NFL standards.

Since then, Brady and the Patriots are 7-6 in the postseason, have lost twice at home as the AFC's top seed and have lost two Super Bowls as a favorite, one in which they were going for perfection.

In those 13 postseason games, Brady's had some good moments, but he has also had his share of bad ones. He has thrown 27 touchdown passes and 17 interceptions. To put that into context, Brady has never thrown more than 15 picks in a 16-game season.

Sometimes it's hard to see his flaws in the reflection off those Lombardi Trophies, but they are there.

He turns 35 this summer, and this is a fact: Tom Brady isn't Tom Brady anymore in the postseason.

He's still putting up gaudy regular-season numbers, still showing he's one of the NFL's best, but the postseason magic, the postseason aura, is gone.

So why does he get a pass?

Seven years is a long time between rings, especially with so many blown chances. If his name were Peyton Manning, he'd be seared like a steak at St. Elmo's. As it is, since Brady last won a Super Bowl, Peyton Manning has won one and Eli Manning has two, both by outdueling Brady along the way.

Seven-year scoreboard: Mannings 3, Brady 0.

Forget Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw. He's become Jim Kelly. LeBron James. Alex Rodriguez.

Dare I say it: A ppppppplayoff choker.

Oops, did I just write that. I know it's sacrilegious to question Brady in the media, what with his good looks, his model wife and his three rings, but this is a what-have-you-done-lately league.

And lately, he has been a postseason failure.

That confident Brady we once watched before he tore up his knee in 2008 is no more. In his place is a sometimes jumpy, look-at-the-rush player. Phantom pressure has become his enemy. He feels it when it's not there. That's a no-no for any quarterback, and something we never saw from Brady before the injury.

It's hard to throw when your eyes are looking behind you. Did you see that Sunday night? I know I did.

Welker took the bullet for Brady on the drop.

"The ball's right there. I've just got to make a play," he said. "It's a play I've made a thousand times in practice and everything else. It comes to the biggest play of my life, and I don't come up with."

That's what we've come to expect. Teammates adore the guy. So does the media. But the reality is this isn't the same Tom Brady who captured the football world with his postseason magic.

One has to wonder: Is he coming to the end? I say he has some good football left in that arm, but the Patriots and their fans have to hope that it means good playoff football.

After the game, Brady's wife gave an earful to a camera about the receivers dropping passes.

She might want to look over in bed next to her for blame before throwing it elsewhere.

After all, the last time Brady won a Super Bowl was half his career ago. There's no hiding from that, even for an icon like Brady.


Pete Prisco has covered the NFL for three decades, including working as a beat reporter in Jacksonville for the Jaguars. He hosted his own radio show for seven years, and is the self-anointed star of CBS Sports' show, Eye on Football. When he's not watching game tape, you can find Pete on Twitter or dreaming of an Arizona State national title in football.
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