Congratulations, Tom Brady! You just knocked Tim Tebow out of the playoffs and saved us an additional week of soft focus Rick Reilly columns about how Tebow is a good quarterback but an even BETTER human being. That's the good news. The bad news is that you are the last man standing when it comes to elite QBs carrying lousy defenses.
There were three teams in the divisional round that featured historically good QBs coupled with historically terrible defenses: The Saints, the Packers, and the Patriots. Before last weekend, many of us assumed that either the Saints or Packers would make the Super Bowl because... well because Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers were too good to fail, no matter what kind of scrap their respective teams fielded on the other side of the ball. But this weekend served as a reassuring reminder that defense DOES still matter. Both the Niners and Giants advanced to the NFC title game because they got clutch play from their QBs and because their defenses flustered Brees and Rodgers and forced uncharacteristic turnovers.
If you will recall, the Patriots lost to the Jets in the divisional round last year under similar circumstances. Tom Brady turned the ball over early, never got into a rhythm, and then New England was summarily ushered out of Super Bowl contention. Despite the fact that the Pats just rolled over a lame Denver squad, it can't comfort them to know that the three other remaining teams in these playoffs have the ability to do what the Jets did. Tom Brady isn't going to be able to wage a shootout with Rodgers or Brees in the Super Bowl (as nice as that might have been). He's gonna have to WORK for his 35 points a game.
And that might not even be enough, given how poorly the Patriots defense has played. If Alex Smith can hang 36 points on the Saints, why can't he do likewise to New England? And why couldn't Eli Manning do likewise? Even Joe Flacco, who was less than inspirational yesterday, could put up numbers on this defense. It's not a good sign. The Patriots will be favored in every game they have left this postseason. But the Saints and Packers just proved they weren't built to survive against real defenses. Maybe the Patriots are simply delaying the inevitable.