National Football League
Brady, Pats show Broncos how it's done in New York Life Protection Index
National Football League

Brady, Pats show Broncos how it's done in New York Life Protection Index

Published Jan. 17, 2012 5:42 p.m. ET

NORTHBROOK, Ill. (STATS) - Tom Brady has already cemented his spot as one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history with four Super Bowl appearances and three titles.

If he continues to get the same kind of pass protection he got Saturday night throughout the rest of the postseason, those numbers are likely to go up very soon.

New England graded out with a season-high 110.9 rating to highlight the New York Life Protection Index in the divisional playoff round as Brady and the Patriots outclassed Tim Tebow and the upstart Denver Broncos - and the two performances at Gillette Stadium could not have contrasted more.

The NYLPI is a proprietary formula created by STATS LLC which measures pass protection by using metrics such as length of passes, penalties by offensive linemen, sacks allowed and quarterback hurries and knockdowns.


While Brady's accomplishments have been well documented, he had not led his team to a postseason victory since a 21-12 win over San Diego in the AFC title game back on Jan. 20, 2008. The Patriots had gone 0-4 since, finally breaking through with a 45-10 rout of Denver last weekend as Brady threw for 363 yards and a playoff-record-tying six touchdowns while finishing with a 137.6 quarterback rating.

"You lose a few playoff games and it's a very bitter way to end the season and it sits on your mind for quite a long time," Brady said. "For us to come out and play the way we did, have a very solid performance in the most important game of the year is very gratifying."

The key to that performance was the time his offensive line gave him to stand and deliver. Brady wasn't sacked as the Patriots' finished with their highest rating of the season, eclipsing a 102.6 mark in a 34-31 loss to Buffalo in Week 3 that saw Brady throw for 387 yards and four TDs.

"The team revolves around him," said tight end Aaron Hernandez, who was on the receiving end of one of those passes. "When he comes to play, which he mostly does every game, then we're going to be on fire, and when he's ready, we're all ready."

Brady had been sacked at least once in 14 games this season, including four times in the team's regular-season finale against Miami. An extra week of rest - and the motivation of higher stakes - apparently did wonders for the Patriots front five, which allowed its quarterback to throw another three TDs to breakout tight end Rob Gronkowski.

"These two are changing the game," guard Brian Waters said of Hernandez and Gronkowski. "If you decide to take away one, that opens things up for the other."

Denver has no such offensive weapons, and never was that more exposed than against New England. Forced into an uncomfortable game of catch-up from the start, Tebow went 9 for 26 for 136 yards and was sacked five times. The Broncos finished with a 5.9 NYLPI rating, by far the worst of any team during the playoffs.

Just a week earlier, Tebow wasn't sacked in Denver's dramatic 29-23 overtime win over Pittsburgh, finishing with a 125.6 quarterback rating against the league's top defense and growing his legend for late-game heroics.

Against the Patriots - who ranked second-to-last against the pass over the first 16 weeks - he was outmatched against a defense that was able to become more aggressive as the Broncos' deficit quickly increased.

"Any time you're getting beat like that, it doesn't change how you fight," Tebow said. "It didn't matter whether it was the first play or the last play or whether we're down by 42. ... I wanted to be the same player."

Perhaps the only player still alive in the postseason that is in Brady's class is Eli Manning. Manning and the New York Giants eliminated the defending Super Bowl champs with an impressive 37-20 road win against the Green Bay Packers.

Manning was sacked just once and threw for 330 yards and three touchdowns as the Giants finished with a 72.2 NYLPI rating and moved onto their first NFC championship game since 2007 - when they also won at Lambeau and went on to beat New England in Super Bowl XLII.

"I think we're a dangerous team," coach Tom Coughlin said. "I like where we are and how we're playing."

And how could he not? Green Bay finished the regular season 15-1 and seemed poised for a repeat thanks to an MVP season by quarterback Aaron Rodgers. The Packers' offensive line, though, was handled by New York on Sunday, allowing four sacks - tying a season high - and finishing sixth on the weekend with a 62.6 NYLPI rating.

Rodgers' 78.5 quarterback rating was his worst since finishing with a 55.4 mark in last year's NFC title game victory over Chicago.

"We play to win championships. You win a championship and you're kind of at the top of the mountain, and you forget kind of how bad this feeling (of losing) is," Rodgers said. "We had a championship-caliber regular season and didn't play well today."

The same could be said for the New Orleans Saints, who couldn't ride their record-setting quarterback Drew Brees to another title either, falling 36-32 to San Francisco on Saturday despite finishing third with an 84.7 NYLPI rating.

New Orleans, which finished first with an 88.0 regular-season mark in the NYLPI, allowed three sacks - though Brees set a career high with 63 pass attempts, completing 40 of them for 462 yards and four touchdowns.

"It stings right now because of the expectation level that we had coming into this tournament and understanding that if we win here we're into the NFC championship game and anything can happen," said Brees, who set an NFL record with 5,476 passing yards this season.

"Tough to swallow at this point."

The 49ers, who advanced to their first conference title game since falling to Green Bay 23-10 on Jan. 11, 1998, finished fifth with a 70.0 NYLPI rating despite allowing Alex Smith to be sacked four times.

Baltimore advanced to meet New England despite the shoddy protection it afforded Joe Flacco in a 20-13 win over Houston. The Texans finished with an impressive 99.1 in the index to the Ravens' 30.6, but turnovers proved to be the equalizer.

Houston didn't allow a sack, but rookie T.J. Yates threw three interceptions, while Flacco was sacked five times but did not commit a turnover.


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