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Brady at his best when he’s agitated


The Sports Xchange

Do not make Tom Brady angry.

You can draw any conclusion you want from the first two weeks of the season, but don’t waste time trying to analyze the teams that are off to surprising starts, either good or bad.

There are surprises every year. But not all of the 2-0 teams will make the playoffs, and odds are not all of the 0-2 teams will miss.

No, the clearest conclusion from the first two weeks surrounds a single player, Brady, and the message, which we should have learned years ago, is simple: Don’t tick him off.

It might be worth remembering that Brady’s best year was 2007, the season that began with the Spygate penalties falling upon the Patriots right as the season began. That wound up as the year Brady and the Pats fashioned the only 16-0 regular-season record in NFL history, and he set a league record with 50 touchdown passes.

Now, with “Deflategate” in the rear-view mirror, Brady is off to a ridiculous start with seven touchdown passes and 754 passing yards in the first two games. Those numbers are even more impressive when we consider the opposition — the Pittsburgh defense, which in the past always gave Brady fits, and his personal nemesis, Buffalo coach Rex Ryan.

While throwing for 466 yards, the second highest total of his career, against the Bills on Sunday, Brady completed 64.4 percent of his passes and averaged 7.89 yards per attempt. He rarely has matched those figures through the years against Ryan’s teams and not at all in four games the past two years.

One thing about Brady that’s important to consider: Few players ever remembered a slight or carried a grudge the way he has done it through his entire career, starting with his fall to the end of the sixth round in the draft.

Brady did not say much publicly during the long, drawn-out “Deflategate” drama, but anyone who knows anything about him can be certain he was seething inside and plotting his revenge on the NFL.

It would hardly be a surprise if, buried in the pages of Brady’s personal diary this year, is a notation to be transferred to his 2016 diary under the date of Feb. 7 — perhaps some entry that reads, “Don’t shake Goodell’s hand when he gives me the Super Bowl MVP award.”

Of course, getting a good mad on is frequently what makes the great ones great.

Not talking here about the guys who talk about getting revenge or getting even. A lot of that is just talk.

No, this is simply about the real greats, who are already at the top of their profession, getting a little more worked up, a little more anxious, putting a little more effort into their games at certain times.

Brady’s boyhood hero was Joe Montana, and you probably wouldn’t be surprised to know that Montana was pretty good, too, at keeping these things bottled up inside of him and then taking his hate out on an opponent at a key time.

Two points in Montana’s career especially show that.

Before the Super Bowl after the 1984 season, all the hype surrounded the opponent for Montana and the 49ers, who were the Miami Dolphins and then-boy wonder Dan Marino, only in his second NFL season but threw a then-record 48 touchdown passes.

Never mind that Montana already had won a Super Bowl. Marino was the latest and the greatest in the hype machine. All week in the buildup to the game, Marino drew the most attention. Montana quietly seethed inside. So what happened when the game took place?

Montana and the 49ers won easily, 38-16, with Montana passing for 331 yards and three touchdowns and also rushing for 59 yards and a touchdown on five carries.

Montana was not a runner. He rushed for more than 59 yards in a season just once in his 16-year career, and then it was just 61 yards. But in that Super Bowl, it was as if he were making a point, although he would never have said that.

The second point occurred after Montana’s back surgery later in the decade when his coach, the late Bill Walsh, wanted to trade him to San Diego. Walsh’s staff talked him out of it, but Walsh then attempted to force Steve Young into the lineup ahead of Montana.

Montana got the job back and followed with the two best seasons of his career, winning back-to-back MVP awards in 1989 and 1990, before his career was derailed by elbow surgery.

There is no indication, nor reason to believe, that Bill Belichick wanted to move on from Brady during the last several months, but there was plenty of speculation because Brady is 38 years old and obviously does not have unlimited time left. But it’s clear he does have enough time left to exact his own brand of revenge for the hassle of “Deflategate.”

Ira Miller is an award-winning sportswriter who has covered the National Football League for more than four decades and is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Selection Committee. He is a national columnist for The Sports Xchange.

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