This week’s installment of “X’s and O’s” takes a closer look at Tom Brady’s 2 interceptions against the Jets last Sunday. Both were killer plays that helped the Jets gain momentum and wear out what was turning into a porous Patriot defense. The talk across New England the past week has been the sentiment that Brady is forcing the ball to Randy Moss, even if he is not open, trying to make a big play. Both of Brady’s interceptions came on passes to Moss. With Moss being targeted 10 times against the Jets and catching only 2, it’s easy to see how fans would have the feeling that Brady is forcing it. It was also seemingly an issue last season as well. On some post-game shows following the Jets game, some analysts suggested that no one is open so Brady is trying to throw it to the one guy (Moss) who could make a catch even if he seems to be covered. First off, if nobody’s open, Brady should tuck the ball and run or toss it out of bounds. However, I decided to test that theory, look at the film, and see if Brady had no other options on his two interception plays. So is Tom Brady forcing the ball to Randy Moss?
That definitely seems to be the case, at least with the two interceptions he threw. Let’s take a look at his first INT:
The picture above is what the field looked like right before Brady threw the ball. Randy Moss is circled in blue and he is certainly covered. Wes Welker is coming across the middle of the field, circled in black, and he has three Jets around him. Next in the progression would be Aaron Hernandez, circled in yellow, and he too is covered, by a man right next to him and a linebacker underneath. The first few times I watched the film I said, “Ah, nobody’s open.” Then, as I looked closer, Brady had an underneath option. Circled in red is Rob Gronkowski, who is wide open in the flat. He has a good 10 yards between him and the nearest defender. This play was on a 3rd and 13, so a dump off may not have yielded a first down. However, he could have given the team a fighting chance by tossing the ball to Gronk and allowing him to try and make a play. He had one guy to shake and probably could have gotten at least 5 yards before the other defenders closed on him. Maybe he could have done better. Classic Patriots football was the dink-and-dunk and allow the receiver to make a big play. Gronk may have at least gotten close to the first, forcing and 4th and short or maybe a long field goal try. Either way, Brady had an open option. Let’s take a look at INT number 2.
First off, I apologize for the picture quality but it was the best I could do. You can watch the entire play by clicking here and selecting the “Pool tip-toes sideline on INT of Brady” video. This play came on a 2nd and 3, where there was absolutely no reason to force a throw when you have another down to give it a shot. Regardless, there were options on this play. The black arrow is pointing to Randy Moss, who is covered tightly by Antonio Cromartie with Brodney Poll helping over the top at safety. It doesn’t make much sense throwing in that direction. At the top of the screen, that blur that is circled in blue is Wes Welker running an out, clearly open and clearly past the first-down marker. He has a Jet on his tail but plenty of space to make the catch and get out of bounds with the first. However, if it’s big plays you want, it’s big plays you could have gotten. The red arrow points to Brandon Tate, streaking down the left hash uncovered. He has a Jet closing on his left, but of the ball is thrown to his right shoulder, it’s clearly a big play. I didn’t get a good look at underneath options but as you can see in the picture Brady had options past the line of scrimmage.
In the final analysis, Brady simply has to make better decisions. I love Randy Moss and think he’s a tremendous weapon, but if the man is covered, he’s covered! I get the feeling that Brady is using Moss as somewhat of a crutch, thinking he can just toss it Moss’s way and he’ll come down with the ball. Sometimes, he does. However, more often than not lately the defender makes a play and breaks up the pass, or worse, picks it off. I certainly wouldn’t mind seeing Brady go back to carving up a defense with short-to-intermediate throws and taking the big play when it is CLEARLY there. Kind of like what worked in the first half of the game.
It’s only Week 2, so let’s hope these things get cleaned up before it’s too late.
Just in case you missed previous “X’s and O’s” pieces: