Brady adds to `best' case

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What you saw from Foxboro, Mass., Thursday night was yet one more piece of evidence that Tom Brady - not Peyton Manning, not Steve McNair, not Brett Favre - is the best quarterback in the NFL right now.

It's not a stretch any longer to make the connection. The former sixth-round draft pick of the New England Patriots has the resume to back it up.

He has two Super Bowl rings (and was the youngest quarterback ever to win one). He is a two-time Most Valuable Player in the Super Bowl (one of four quarterbacks in history so honored).

Manning, of course, carries unique credentials himself. In his first six seasons with the Indianapolis Colts, he threw for 4,000 yards in five consecutive years, an NFL record. He operates the NFL's slickest offense, has one of the league's best receivers and running backs and has one of the best offensive lines.

Brady has none of that. In his four-year NFL career, he has never thrown for 4,000 yards. He doesn't have a big-name receiver and only this season acquired a name running back. His offensive line? He has two street free agents up there blocking.

What Brady does best, what he does to separate himself, is win. And always has.

At Michigan, he went 20-5 in two seasons as a starter after sitting behind Brian Griese on the Wolverines' 1997 national championship team. (Griese is now working on his third team in Tampa Bay as a backup to Brad Johnson.)

Since taking over for injured - and ultimately deposed - Drew Bledsoe in New England, Brady has won 35 of 47 regular-season starts, along with all six of his playoff starts. He's 41-12 overall in the NFL, a winning percentage of .774.

Manning, who inherited a 3-13 Colts team in 1998, is 56-47 (.544). Favre is 136-72 (.654) and McNair 74-44 (.627). Favre has won three league MVP awards in Green Bay; Manning and McNair were co-MVPs last season.

Against Indianapolis on Thursday in a game that reeled with big play after big play, Brady passed for 335 yards and three touchdowns. He had the answer when the Colts posed the question. He played as he usually does, with uncommon poise and remarkable execution.

Is he the best? It's debatable. But he's on the short list.

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