Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots came up with a small, Lilliputian performance in what was dubbed a “Legacy Game” from coast to coast for almost everyone involved on both sides of the ball.

Tom Brady and the New England did their best imitation of the old Peyton Manning in his days with the Indianapolis Colts, reserving one of their most ineffective performances of the season for the biggest game of the year.

The Patriots were overmatched on defense and utterly punchless on offense, losing 26-16.

It was a small-time performance by the Patriots, who looked like the over-achievers many analysts thought they were in the face of the more powerful stud horses from denver.

The Patriots were outgained 507-320, and Brady had just about nothing all day long. He didn't suck. He ended with a 96.3 rating, threw one score, ran for another and did not turn the ball over. 

But he wasn't sharp, missed open receivers a number of times on deep passes that might have changed the game, and was easily outperformed by Manning, the arch-rival QB he has dominated for so much of their careers.

Here are the final numbers:

  • Brady: 24 of 37, 64.9%, 277 yards, 7.5 YPA, 1 TD, 0 INT, 96.3 rating
  • Manning: 32 of 43, 74.4%, 400 yards, 9.3 YPA, 2 TD, 0 INT, 118.4 rating

It was Manning's first 400-yard passing day against the Patriots in 22 largely frustrating games.

Brady sacked during game's signature moment

If you’re looking for a signature moment in the game, it unfolded late in the third quarter.

The Patriots trailed 20-3, had the ball on the Denver 29, facing a 4th and 3, yet still had a fighting chance to make a game of it.

The 46-yard field goal by sure-footed Stephen Gostkowski would have made a game of it with plenty of time to play.

The Patriot even appeared to get a Karmic stroke of luck: Brady looked like he was trying to call a timeout, and the refs blew the whistle. But officials ruled Denver coach John Fox beat him to the punch. The Broncos were charged with the timeout an now down to one – a fact which could have been critical in a close game.

The luck was shortlived: the Patriots offensive line was overrun like a New Orleans levee during Hurricane Katrina, and Brady was taken down for a 10-yard loss by Terrance Knighton – a Denver defensive tackle so beefy he’s known as Pot Roast.


Peyton Manning overwhelms New England defense

The real Force of Nature from New Orleans that overwhelmed New England, though, was Manning himself.

He didn’t have his greatest day. But it was a damn good day – more than good enough. And he was clearly the greatest QB on the field in this particular game. He led the Broncos to six straight scoring drives – each which felt like a clock-eating monster.

The fact that it came against a Bill Belichick team surely added to the sweet flavor of the victory for him on a personal level. Manning slaughtered the coaching beast that haunted him for so much of his career.

The 507 yards of offense by the Broncos were the most ever against a Belichick defense in the playoffs.

Denver averaged an awesome 7.1 yards per play; to just 5.7 for the Patriots.  

And now, on the heels of the greatest passing season in NFL history, he’s lifted his Broncos to the Super Bowl – the fourth QB in NFL history to lead two different franchises to the Super Bowl. He could become the first two win Super Bowls with two different franchises.

Craig Morton was on the losing end of Super Bowl V with the Cowboys and Super Bowl XII with the Broncos.

Earl Morrall lost Super Bowl III with the Colts and was benched by Don Shula before Miami’s win in Super Bowl VII, despite running the offense for much of the Dolphins’ undefeated run.

Kurt Warner won Super Bowl XXXIV with the Rams and lost Super Bowl XLIII with the Cardinals.


The Lost History of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady

Belichick on Sunday lost a chance to join Don Shula as the only coaches to lead their teams to six Super Bowls.

Don Shula lifted the Colts to Super Bowl III, which they lost, and the Dolphins to Super Bowls VI, XVII and XIX, which they lost, and to Super Bowls VII and VIII, which they won.

He’s now faced with the reality that his decision to try to build a Super Bowl champion with spare parts on offense fell short once again.

Brady, meanwhile, lost a singular opportunity to become the only quarterback in NFL history to start six different Super Bowls – which would have been a truly remarkable achievement given that he’s played in just 12 NFL seasons. Five in 12 still unprecedented.

But the reality is that the early years of the Belichick-Brady partnership were met with historic success.

  • The Patriots won a record 10 straight postseason games from 2001 to 2005.
  • They won a record 21 straight games from 2003 to 2004.
  • Brady is the only quarterback to win three Super Bowls in his first four seasons as a starter
  • Belichick is the only coach to win three Super Bowls in four years

But those glory days ended a decade ago. The record since then has been marked largely by missed opportunity.

The 2006 Patriots blew a big lead to the Peyton Manning Colts in the AFC title game and lost 38-34. They likely would have been big favorites over the Bears in the Super Bowl that year.

The 2007 Patriots went 18-0, then came up lame offensively in Super Bowl, losing 17-14 to a team they should have crushed.

Tom Brady was injured in the first minutes of the 2008 season. The lost season ended without a playoff appearance by the Patriots for the first time since 2002.

The 2009 team struggled through a 10-6 season. The campaign ended with an ugly 33-14 playoff beating, in Foxboro, by a very average 9-7 Baltimore Ravens team in the wildcard round.

The 2010 team returned with form with a dominant 14-2 season, 518 points scored and the No. 1 seed in the AFC. They went out with a whimper, losing 28-21, to the 11-5 wildcard Jets in the divisional playoffs.

The 2011 Patriots went 13-3, scored 513 points and again earned the AFC’s No. 1 seed. The season ended in substantially similar fashion to the 2007 season, with a weak-kneed 21-17 Super Bowl loss to a very average New York Giants NFC champion.

The Patriots tore up the 2012 season with 557 points, but again came up lame in the big gime. They lost 28-13 to the Ravens in the AFC title game.

And then came an eerily similar effort Sunday in the 2013 AFC title game. Brady and the Patriots had little in the offensive tank when it mattered most.