It seems like the cool thing nowadays is to hate on a legendary quarterback after a tough loss, and that’s what’s happening to New England Patriots QB Tom Brady. Last week, it was Denver Broncos signal-caller Peyton Manning who received the heat after the Baltimore Ravens topped the Broncos in double overtime.
It’s always “fun” for some people to go into complete “knee-jerk reaction” mode and pour it onto a quarterback after the team lost, and it seems like QBs take the fall these days for a loss whether they deserve to or not. The same goes for quarterbacks like Joe Flacco, who get unnecessarily effusive praise after a win. Brady wasn’t at his best, but that doesn’t mean he “can’t get it done” or is “overrated”. All it takes is a simple Twitter search (I’m not linking to any particular tweets since I don’t want to call anyone out) to find people taking it out on Brady.
My frustration isn’t directed at the fans of other teams knocking Brady, because that’s what you expect from fans of other teams, right? But what bothers me is the very few Patriots fans who are going out of their way to call out Brady, which is absolutely moronic. Whenever I am frustrated at a key player for messing up (which Brady didn’t, by the way), I always remind myself, “Remember who got you there in the first place”.
The thing about this loss to the Baltimore Ravens is that the hate on Brady is unwarranted because it wasn’t his fault. He was never sacked in this game, but sacks are misleading since quarterbacks like Brady who do an excellent job of getting rid of the ball avoid sacks (Michael Vick is the opposite). Brady was hit seven times, and he was hit three times by Haloti Ngata. Dan Connolly could not contain Ngata at all, and Sebastian Vollmer had a few struggles with Pernell McPhee and Ngata at times as well. The left side of the line was excellent, but Ngata dominated the right side of the line.
So Brady faced constant pressure, and quarterbacks facing constant pressure are almost never able to dictate the game on their terms. The Pats also lacked a deep threat in that game to help close the gap, and Brady had to rely on timing routes. Aaron Hernandez played a great game and Wes Welker was solid despite some poor drops, but I want to highlight the other receivers here as well.
I love Brandon Lloyd and don’t want to start knocking other Patriots players for the fault of what was a “team loss”, but he didn’t play his best game. Despite showing flashes of brilliance, Lloyd should have done better against Cary Williams and finished the day with a meager 50% catch rate. Yeah, he only caught 50% of everything thrown at him, which is awful when you consider all the passes thrown to Lloyd were short ones.
Although some of that blame could feasibly go to Brady, he had no trouble hitting Hernandez and Welker on similar throws. Lloyd’s stat line of seven receptions for 70 yards is misleading on the surface, so you have to dig deeper into the stats. He was targeted 14 times and averaged just ten yards per reception, and Lloyd offered little after the catch (once again). He made a nice move to get the first down a couple of times, but he wasn’t consistent in that regard as evidenced by the ten yards per reception. Hernandez and Welker were able to fight for extra yardage, and it’s just frustrating to see Lloyd leaving yards on the table.
Now let’s get to Brady. The offensive line and receivers had their struggles (as did the running game), but some of the blame does need to go to Brady. He didn’t play a bad game, but he wasn’t at his best either. As Patriots fans, we’re spoiled to have such a great quarterback consistently delivering, so when he is merely “solid” and not “amazing”, the Pats feel the pain.
Brady made several crisp throws on short routes, and the wind prevented him from hitting his receivers who didn’t even gain separation downfield. The only receiver who was able to create some space beyond 15 yards was Wes Welker. With Rob Gronkowksi out, only Welk and Hernandez were truly helping out the pass offense. Hernandez only averaged 9.2 yards per catch, though, and this means only Welker could help Brady achieve the goal of moving the ball downfield quickly. Hernandez played a solid game, but the injury to Gronk left the pass offense depleted.
I know for a fact that Brady could have played a better game, and the second interception he threw (the one in the end zone to Cary Williams) was an uncharacteristically poor throw. The first INT was the fault of the line, because tipped passes are a combination of a great play from the defender and a slightly below-average play from the offensive lineman.
And even though Brady was mediocre in this game, there is no doubt he is one of the best to ever step onto a gridiron. If you don’t think he’s one of the legends of the game, then I think it’s going to be very difficult to hold a civil football conversation with you. If you don’t think Brady can get the job done and you are a Patriots fan, then I really want to hear why. I mean, there must be something I’m not getting here, right?
So yes, Brady wasn’t at his best. But neither was the whole team. You can’t blame one player for this loss, you have to blame the whole team for not doing a better job on the big stage in this one. Certain players like Ryan Wendell, Zoltan Mesko, Devin McCourty, and Alfonzo Dennard stood up to the challenge, but other players did not and had uncharacteristic off games. Such is the nature of the NFL, where anything can happen in any given week. Just make sure not to overreact after a game, because it is far too easy to do so.
You can follow Joe Soriano on Twitter @SorianoJoe.