Reimer: Brady is better than Rodgers, but as Sunday showed, he also plays for superior operation

Alex Reimer
November 05, 2018 - 10:37 am

Greg M. Cooper –– USA Today Sports


For the second straight week, an unforgivable blunder from one of Aaron Rodgers’ lesser teammates cost him the opportunity to lead the Packers on a late-game scoring drive. To close out the third quarter, Rodgers connected with wideout Marquez Valdez-Scantling for a big 26-yard gain down the right side, pushing Green Bay deep into Patriots territory. When the fourth quarter started, the Packers were in prime opportunity to break the 17-17 tie and ascend to the lead.

Then running back Aaron Jones fumbled the football on New England’s 24-yard line. The Patriots recovered, and were in the end zone 10 plays later. They never looked back.

It was a scene reminiscent of the previous week, when Ty Montgomery fumbled a kick return out of the end zone against the Rams, stripping Rodgers of the opportunity to engineer one of his patented two-minute drills. 

While Brady and Rodgers have posted nearly identical numbers since the latter became Green Bay’s starting quarterback in 2008, Brady’s five Super Bowl rings give him the ultimate trump card over his all-time great peer. In addition, Brady has continually shown a superior ability to win in hostile environments. As WEEI’s Ryan Hannable points out, Sunday was the 41st road loss of Rodgers’ career. Brady has only lost away from Gillette Stadium 40 times in his career, despite playing 52 more road games.

But as Sunday’s game illustrated, the Patriots’ operation is superior to Green Bay’s. The Packers can’t help themselves from making big mistakes at the end of games, such as when safety Tramon Williams was flagged for roughing Patriots punter Ryan Allen on a 4th-and-21 with 4:27 remaining in the third quarter. The call may have been bad, but Williams still can’t put himself in that situation. Fortunately for the Packers, they stopped the Patriots anyway, before fumbling on their next possession.

Rodgers’ recent playoff track record is littered with gut-wrenching defeats. In the 2015 NFC championship, the Packers blew a 16-0 second half lead to the Seahawks, thanks to an onside kick that bounced off the helmet of Brandon Bostick. Rodgers still led the Packers down the field for a game-tying field goal that sent the game into overtime, but he never saw the field again.

The following season, Rodgers connected with wide receiver Jeff Janis for a Hail Mary that tied up the Packers’ Divisional Round game against the Cardinals. They wound up losing that one in overtime, too, and Rodgers once again didn’t step onto the field.

That’s not say portions of the Packers’ loss Sunday don’t fall on Rodgers. Green Bay went three-and-out following James White’s early fourth quarter touchdown, with Rodgers taking a bad sack on third down. Brady came back and connected with Josh Gordon for a 55-yard score just four plays later. Though both passers struggled at times, Brady upped his game in the fourth quarter, whereas Rodgers shrunk.

Of course, Josh McDaniels’ brilliant play-calling deserves lots of the credit for jumpstarting the Patriots’ stagnant offense. Channeling his trickery from the 2015 Divisional Round contest against Baltimore, McDaniels called on Julian Edelman to hurl the football to White on the Patriots’ drive following Jones’ turnover. The play went for 36 yards and took the Pats all the way to the goal line. Later in the fourth quarter, the Patriots ran a reverse to Edelman for 17 yards, and who could forget that flea-flicker? 

Brady gets the credit for the Patriots’ three touchdown drives, but Bill Belichick and McDaniels deserve mighty assists. New England opened up the game in the no-huddle, running 10 plays in 3:20. The Patriots didn’t commit a single penalty, either, which is a testament to their discipline. Putting in Cordarrelle Patterson at running back, where he led the team with 61 yards, is another sign of Belichick’s brilliance. 

After Sunday’s affair, the Brady-Rodgers debate should be over –– although, to be fair, it really only existed inside of ESPN’s television studios. But keep in mind, Brady also benefits from playing for a superior operation. That was apparent the moment Jones coughed up the football.