Since nobody reads a secondary better than Tom Brady reads a secondary the Buffalo Bills decided to put him to the ultimate test.
Early in the first quarter the New England Patriots faced third-and-12 from the Buffalo 43. Instead of pressuring Brady, which rarely pays off, the Bills attempted to confuse him with numbers.
Two players rushed. Nine fell back into coverage. That meant 14 players, just five of them his own, were sprinting and cutting and curling within a 40-yard area as Brady surveyed the field, looking for calm in the chaos.
Suddenly the greatest quarterback who ever lived spotted a pinhole in the blanket. Like Nolan Ryan reaching back for a little extra on the fastball, Brady cocked his right arm, shuffle-stepped and sent a blur of a pass down the right sideline near the front corner of the end zone.
Bills safety George Wilson froze in his tracks. Randy Moss caught the pass in stride over Wilson's left shoulder. The Patriots had a 14-0 lead with 8:04 remaining in the opening quarter and, as in nine of the 10 games they've played this unbeaten season, the rout was on.
You can have Joe Montana, Jim Kelly, Dan Marino and Bart Starr.
Steve Young, Troy Aikman, Joe Namath and Kenny Stabler are all yours.
Take any and every quarterback you'd like at the absolute height of his prime but if you're up against Brady, you lose almost all the time.
Incomprehensible is what it is. Just impossible to fathom. It's not only the 56-10 walloping Brady inflicted upon the Bills on national TV Sunday night, but the surgically precise walloping he's administered routinely during New England's 10 -0 start.
The Patriots took possession seven times with Brady at the controls. All seven times they scored a touchdown, each drive carrying with it an air of inevitability.
Brady completed 31 of 39 passes, a 79 percent completion rate that improved his season percentage to an ethereal 74 percent. Five of his throws went for touchdowns.
What makes Brady different from most people, not just athletes, is that none of this incredible success goes to his head. He's grounded in a Tiger Woods sort of way, unmoved by personal achievement, or at least unwilling to let on if he is. He deferred the credit for Sunday's performance to his offensive line, which is typical of Brady, who once agreed to do commercials for a credit card company only after it agreed to put his trenchmen in the script. Contrast that with Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning, who lives on the island of commercial overexposure, his appearances so frequent you can't help but wonder if his promotional schedule is equal in importance to his football.
Manning wants to be loved the way Phil Mickelson wants to be loved. Brady merely wants to be respected and perhaps, deep down, recognized as the best there's ever been at his position.
But, unlike Woods, Brady can't pursue unquestioned greatness by targeting the career record for majors. Brady's burden is to put up the numbers week after week, year after year, which he's done with remarkable frequency since taking over for the injured Drew Bledsoe in 2001. If the Pats win it all this year -- and who's going to stop them? -- that'll make it Super Bowl championship No. 4 for the sixth-round draft pick out of Michigan.
Offensively, the Pats have never been better. Until this season Brady's been wanting for a big-time, big-play receiver. Yes, Brady once threw to Deion Branch, MVP of Super Bowl XXXVIII, until Branch left in search of a hefty contract. But Branch is not on the same level as Moss, who's been rejuvenated alongside Brady after two subpar, indifferent seasons in Oakland. His four touchdown catches upped his season total to 16 as he and Brady advance toward records that might really truly never be broken.
"I'm just in a good situation," Moss said. "I'm still in a dream. It's too good to be true. I'm with the Patriots. What more do you want?"
What more could any wideout want than to be on the target end of a Brady pass, knowing somehow he'll find you, even when the chances are five against nine.