Elite quarterbacks like New England Patriots signal-caller Tom Brady have the ability to withstand (and even succeed) under pressure. I’m not talking about pressure as in “the clutch” here, I mean actual pressure from the defense. The Pro Football Focus is profiling quarterbacks under pressure, and they started with the AFC East’s QBs today. All data is retroactive to 2008.
According to PFF, Tom Brady has a QB Rating of 109.0 when not facing pressure (normally 100.6), but that number shoots down to 71.2 when under pressure. Brady is significantly worse facing any type of pressure, but he’s actually able to hold up under pressure from the edges pretty well. For instance, he still has a QB rating of 93.9 when facing pressure from the right side, and he also has an 89.8 QB Rating when under pressure from the left side. Not bad, huh? But when that pressure comes from the interior Brady’s QB Ratings fall under 70, including a 43.6 rating when the center is to blame.
It’s not a surprise to see that Tom Brady fares out better when the pressure comes from the outside, because that’s what we’ve come to believe. Brady does a great job of sensing pressure, but there’s no sensing when the pressure is right up in the quarterback’s wheelhouse, so to speak. In fact, most quarterbacks do worse when under pressure up the middle, and that can be seen in Ryan Tannehill’s numbers and Mark Sanchez’s numbers. On a light note (for us, not New York Jets fans), PFF writes that Sanchez’s strengths when facing pressure (Brady’s is edge) are “none”. That’s what happens when your QB Rating is 42.9 when facing the heat, and he’s also had 21 picks (compared to just 11 touchdowns) when under pressure.
The numbers shows us that Tom Brady definitely deserves the reputation he has built as being a quarterback who is calm under pressure and can succeed (relatively speaking, every QB is worse when pressured) under pressure. I would like to point out quickly that pressure is different from blitzing, because a blitz is a way to manufacture pressure whereas pressure is when a quarterback is literally being pressured (basically, a player is about to sack him).
But what do the numbers mean for the offensive line? Well, it puts more of an emphasis on the interior of the New England Patriots offensive line in keeping Tom Brady not only upright, but also keeping the pass rush at bay. Logan Mankins is still good in pass protection, but Dan Connolly is an average player who was a liability in pass pro last season (nine QB hits allowed at RG is not good). Ryan Wendell improved significantly as the year went on, but he still needs to keep improving as a pass blocker. The Patriots have an excellent tackle duo against the pass rush, so the pressure also does not come as quickly as it does up the middle. I wonder if the quality of blockers significantly affects the data when it comes to Brady under pressure, but what I do know is that guys like Connolly and Wendell still have some improving to do as pass blockers. And honestly, Connolly’s job isn’t safe if Marcus Cannon can successfully transition to right guard.