Tom Brady’s 200th career win wasn’t his best game. His early throws were off, his knee still was a little achy, and having missed two days of practice last week, he didn’t feel as if he had his “A’’ game.
Yet in one important way, the history-making win Sunday was vintage Brady: When the Patriots needed their quarterback most, he came up big, leading them on an 83-yard touchdown drive late in the fourth quarter to beat the Jets, 22-17, at MetLife Stadium.
Brady (200-61) is tied with Peyton Manning for most career victories, including playoff games. Manning, who retired after last season, finished his career with a 200-93 mark.
All this comes after Brady was forced to miss the first four games of the season because of a suspension. Now, at 39, he seems to be playing some of his best football.
Brady was 30-for-50 for 286 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. In seven games this season, he has thrown 18 touchdown passes and one interception.
“That says a lot about him and what he’s been able to do for this franchise,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. “That’s what it’s all about. That’s what a quarterback’s job is, to win. He’s done a great job of that . . . He’s won a lot. That’s good. I’m glad he’s our quarterback.”
Brady, who missed practice on Wednesday and Thursday because of his knee, was listed as questionable coming into the game.
He made his first really gutsy play in the second quarter when he threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to rookie Malcolm Mitchell.
On the play, the snap hit off Brady’s hip and dropped to the ground. The ball bounced off the turf and Brady grabbed it, dropped back and found Mitchell in the right corner.
“It wasn’t how we drew it up, but it worked,” Brady said.
On the winning touchdown drive, Brady was 6-for-9 for 83 yards. That included a short fourth-and-4 pass to running back James White to keep the drive alive. The drive was capped by an 8-yard TD pass to Mitchell with 1:56 remaining.
“You definitely don’t want to put Tom in those situations, in a four-minute offense or two- minute offense,” said Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis, who was targeted on both touchdown throws. “He does a great job of executing and putting his teammates in the best position to make plays.”