It was a long six years ago that Tom Brady and Randy Moss set NFL records for touchdowns.
That was the year the New England Patriots also set the scoring record with a blistering 589 points, 33 more than the previous record holder who just happened to have drafted Randy Moss in the first round of that year's (1998) draft.
It is an interesting fact that both teams fell short of Super Bowl glory despite having one of the most prolific receivers in the game.
It is also a reminder that prolific and championship don't necessarily go together.
In the grand scheme of things, Tom Brady can and should be penciled-in to the Hall of Fame. And one year won't change anybody's mind about that. But for this All-Pro, one season of mediocrity is unacceptable; it goes against the competitor who had to prove himself time and again despite having that quality that no statistic can measure.
And when the books of 2013 are closed, Tom Brady won't be at the top of the ratings for quarterbacks. But he will have led his team where he always does- to the playoffs.
The Patriots sit atop the AFC East as usual, boasting a 6-2 record and leaving the Dolphins, Jets, and Bills in their dust. But they have not won pretty. Many have questioned their ability to hang with the better teams in the league. Did they put that to rest with a close win over New Orleans? If you listen to commentators, the answer is no.
Tom Brady is still struggling with his accuracy and his receivers are still having trouble running routes and catching his passes. And while it is difficult for young receivers to click in NFL systems, it is asking even more to do it in a Bill Belichick system.
But there is light at the end of the tunnel. Injured pass catchers are coming back onto the field. An "easier" game against the Steelers followed by a bye week will help immensely in this department. But it is the progress of the rookies, Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins, that spells gradual improvement of the offense.
Brady is sharpest when his primary targets, Rob Gronkowski, Danny Amendola, and Julian Edelman are in the pattern. He knows he can trust them with every ball he throws their way. These veterans know him and how he operates, while the rookies have just started to earn his trust.
But Brady's best friend this year has been the run game, a backfield as diverse as any in the league. Stevan Ridley is clearly the team's workhorse, although he has been strangely held back at times this season.
But the unique combination of him and compatriots; LeGarrette Blount, Brandon Bolden, and Shane Vereen has given the offense the boost it needs during these uncertain times. When these skill sets are utilized fully, defenses cannot keep pace.
Another uncertainty, as if this team needed any more, is the health of Brady, himself. How is his hand and shoulder? We will probably never know. But there is something bothering Tom, that has been an issue since day one. It hasn't been enough to keep him off the field, he probably would have to be nearly dead. But he has fought through it all, and that is why I think he is set to catch fire.
Remember that bye week coming in two weeks? There is a bevy of New Englanders looking forward to the extra time. One of those is the aforementioned runner, Vereen, as well as, the receiver who was intended to be the replacement for Wes Welker, Amendola. These are keys that cannot be underestimated.
We know that Brady can make the throws. He will come out of the bye week with a vengeance and that alone will inspire a rise in performance from every player around him. It's not that he is "due", but that he is Tom Brady. He will not be held down for long, and that day is coming very soon.
They face possibly their two toughest contests after the break in the Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos. But the Patriots and Brady tend to play up to their opponents, meaning they take it to another level against the best teams. They have been denied one too many times and... this is Tom Brady. Did I mention his competitive nature? Oh, I said that already!
This team just loves to put the naysayers to rest. They were counted out before the season even started. Now they are poised for the run to the playoffs, and they just might be the best suited to do that come week eleven. Brady has nowhere to go but up, and his numbers will do just that.
Brady is going to be blazing, his receivers will come to life, and the backfield, let loose by Josh McDaniels, will run roughshod over whatever gets in the way. New England controls their own destiny, and they see a trophy in that destiny. It has been too long since that trophy visited Foxboro.
That is motivation enough. But Brady has a reputation and he doesn't want to go out this way. His completion percentage has been steadily rising and is now back up over 50 percent. And it is his efficiency that makes him so deadly.
This won't even be Brady's worst statistical year; he should easily reach 4,000 yards and at least 20 TDs. His numbers will go up and look more like the Brady the NFL can never forget. It's all coming together at the right time, much like the Ravens as they steamrolled their way into and through the playoffs and eventually the Super Bowl.
This is the time that matters, and the Patriots have survived the rough start to begin building steam and do some steamrolling of their own. Then they will start to sizzle and there will be no stopping this offense.