Over the final week of 2012, WEEI.com will count down the top 10 stories of the year in Boston sports. This entry in the countdown is No. 3: Tom Brady’s MVP-caliber season.
Check out our previous entries:
No. 10: NHL lockout 
No. 9: Wes Welker’s up-and-down year 
No. 8: Bruins’ early playoff elimination 
No. 7: Ray Allen’s departure from Celtics 
No. 6: Tim Thomas’ political controversy and sabbatical 
No. 5: Celtics’ Eastern Conference finals loss to Heat 
No. 4: Red Sox’ megatrade with Dodgers 
Only four players in NFL history have won at least three MVP awards. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who on Sunday wrapped up a terrific regular season, has a chance to join that group.
Brady threw for 4,827 yards and 34 touchdowns this season while only being intercepted eight times. He led the Patriots to a 12-4 record and the No. 2 seed in the AFC playoffs.
In a 42-14 victory over the Texans on Dec. 10, Brady was hearing “MVP” chants from the Gillette Stadium  crowd, and in his weekly appearance on Dennis & Callahan  the next day he acknowledged it.
“I heard it. I’m very flattered to even be considered for something like that,” Brady said. “Honestly, the most important thing for me is winning games and enjoying it with my teammates. Everything that I do is dependent on them, on the group of guys that I play with, and the successful years we’ve had with our team has been all about team football. That’s what our team has been built on, and that’s what our team is about.”
Other top candidates for MVP include Vikings running back Adrian Peterson  and Broncos  quarterback Peyton Manning . Peterson led the NFL in rushing yards (2,096 — just nine short of the NFL single-season record) and led the Vikings to a 10-6 record and their first playoff berth since 2009. Manning, who already has four MVPs, returned from a year off to pass for 37 touchdowns and lead the Broncos to a 13-3 record and the No. 1 seed in the AFC.
Prior to the Patriots’ victory over the Broncos in October, Brady talked about his great respect for Manning  in a news conference.
“He’s someone that I’ve always looked up to and admired, and I respect the way he plays the position, and the way he works, the way he leads,” Brady said. “He’s been a phenomenal player. We played against him for a long time against the Colts, it seemed like every year. You see a lot of those games, and obviously I’ve learned a lot from him.”
There have been a couple of bumps in the road that might end up costing Brady the MVP. In a 20-18 loss to the Cardinals  on Sept. 16, Brady was just 28-of-46 with one touchdown and an interception. The Patriots lost to another NFC West foe in Week 6, dropping a 24-23 decision to the Seahawks , and Brady again played below his standards. He completed 36-of-58 passes for two touchdowns but tied his season high with two picks.
Brady then went on a tear over the next five games, averaging a 118.8 quarterback rating. His two outings prior to Sunday’s finale against the Dolphins, though, were his two worst games as far as quarterback rating.
Brady showed his value to the team in another way, though, letting his teammates know their performance in last Sunday’s 23-16 victory over the lowly Jaguars was not good enough. The Patriots responded with a solid effort to close out the season, and the 35-year-old QB once again put his focus on the postseason.
“We’ve definitely made some improvements over the course of the year, which we always hope to do,” Brady said during Monday’s D&C spot . “We were at one point 2-3, not feeling very good about where we were at. To finish 12-4 is pretty good considering where we started. And the four games we lost were all real competitive games. If we can just keep getting better and continue to improve, we’re as competitive as any team left. I think that gives us a lot of confidence here heading into the playoffs.”