Patriots

Brady knows Patriots will have hands full with Revis

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Brady knows Patriots will have hands full with Revis

FOXBORO - The New England Patriots don't win a Super Bowl without Darelle Revis. It's inarguable. He was the best cornerback in football a year ago, and allowed the Pats defense to do things it hadn't done in nearly a decade. Matt Patricia and Bill Belichick no longer had to lean on a bend-but-don't-break philosophy. Instead, the Pats regularly released the hounds because they knew with Revis -- and Brandon Browner and Kyle Arrington -- they could cover things up on the back end.

Then came the reality check. Revis wanted big money this offseason and the New York Jets were more than willing to give it him. The Pats never made an offer that could have been considered tempting by Revis and his camp, and now he's back wearing green and white and playing at a high level.

And Tom Brady knows full well what he's getting himself into this Sunday.

“He makes it tough," he said. "His instincts are incredible out there. He’s one of those guys that sees everything on the field. He sees the formations and routes and splits. [He sees anything] pre-snap that can help him get an idea of whether the ball is coming his way, or if it’s going the other way, or if it’s a run or pass or deep throw or short throw. He’s a very dependable, consistent player. He’s been an incredible playmaker since he’s been in the league. He covers the top guys every week, so I got a first-hand look at that last year every day in practice. It was great to have him a part [of team] here but he moved on so now he’s our competition again.”

Revis has been a ballhawk for the Jets. He's got three interceptions. He's also been in the right place at the right time, scooping up three fumbles. 

“Revis is having a big year with those two stats,” said Brady, who's thrown just one interception this year, and that came off the hands of Julian Edelman. 

Moving on from Revis was made slightly easier by the emergence of Malcolm Butler last season (although it was seen through the prism of a limited number of snaps, 187 in total, as compared to say the 1,032 Revis had). Butler isn't quite playing to the level of Revis this year, or certainly the Revis of last year, but he's clearly an ascending player.

"Malcolm is a good football player and he’s played very well for us both last year and this year, but just given where we are in the secondary and the level of improvement, I think no matter who we had on our team that he would be playing a lot of football for us," said Belichick. "So that’s really a credit to him and how much he’s improved from last year to this year. He’s a good football player. He’s playing well. He does a lot of good things for us, and there is still a lot of room for him to improve. I don’t think he’s hit the peak, but he’s getting better . . . "

Butler has allowed a catch once per every 10.8 snaps, according to Pro Football Focus, while Revis has surrendered one per every 18.4 snaps. That puts Revis No. 4 overall. Butler is 34th. One is not yet in the other's league, but if Butler continues to make the vast improvements that he has since coming into the league, the Pats are set at left corner for many years to come.

Tom Brady on pace for huge numbers, so why is he down on his play of late?

Tom Brady on pace for huge numbers, so why is he down on his play of late?

FOXBORO -- Tom Brady is on pace for 5,224 yards passing in 2017, just a shade under his total from his career-high in 2011. He's on track to have 34 touchdowns and just five picks. Barring a continued run of ridiculous efficiency from Kansas City's Alex Smith, those numbers would be MVP-caliber in all likelihood.

But Brady's not thrilled with the way he's played of late. What gives? 

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In his past two games, he hasn't thrown the football as consistently as he would have liked. After starting the season with a 10-to-0 touchdown-to-interception ratio, he's 3-to-2 in the last couple of weeks. His accuracy has been at times pinpoint (as it was on his 42-yard completion to Brandin Cooks to help set up a Rob Gronkowski score against the Jets), but it has also been uncharacteristically erratic.

He was picked deep down the middle of the field by Buster Skrine last week, but the more concerning throw may have been the quick out-route to Gronkowski that Skrine dropped for what should have been an easy interception. Brady missed Phillip Dorsett on what looked like it could have been a long touchdown with Dorsett running free behind the defense. He threw behind Chris Hogan twice in the game, one of which opened up Hogan to a rib-shot that landed him on the injury report this week.

Against the Jets, Brady was not sacked and he was hit only four times -- a light day for him compared to other weeks this season when he's been battered. Yet he still completed just under 53 percent of his passes for 257 yards and a season-low 6.76 yards per attempt. 

"Well, I've got to hit the open . . . If the throws are there I've got to be able to make them," he said on Friday. "It's disappointing when I don't. To me, it just comes back to technique and fundamentals and making sure everything is working and that's the consistent daily thing that you're working on. I'm always working on my accuracy.

"I wish I hit them all. I'm capable of hitting them all and I need to be able to do that. I said last week that some of these games wouldn't be as close if I was playing better in the red area. I think some of those missed opportunities in the pass game with me hitting guys would really help our team. Hopefully, I can do a better job for this team."

Brady is no longer listed on the Patriots injury report, but he dealt with a left shoulder injury against both the Bucs and the Jets, and it's worth wondering if that somehow impacted how his passes traveled in those games. Balance is key in Brady's world, and even though he can make flat-footed throws look easy, perhaps an injury to his front side limited his ability to place the ball where he wanted. 

Keeping Brady upright could go a long way in helping the 40-year-old regain his form from Weeks 2-4 when he didn't dip below a 104 quarterback rating. Bill Belichick said earlier this week that part of the reason the Jets pass-rush wasn't quite as effective as others they'd faced this year was his team's ability to run the ball. Productive rushing attempts on first and second down mean manageable third downs, which mean shorter pass attempts. Those of course, in theory, lead to less time standing in the pocket and a healthier quarterback.

"It's great," Brady said of his team's recent surge running the football. "I mean, to be able to run the ball consistently in the NFL is important for every offense. It does take a lot of . . . I wouldn't say pressure, it's just production. If 400 yards of offense is what you're looking for and you can get 150 from your running game, the 250 has got to come in the passing game. If you're getting 50 yards in the rushing game then it means you've got to throw for more.

"I don't think it's pressure it's just overall you're going to get production in different areas and the backs are a big part of our offense and handing the ball off to them is an easy way for us to gain yards if we're all coordinated and doing the right thing. But those guys are running hard. The line is doing a great job up front finishing blocks and so forth."

Against the Falcons and their talented -- though underperforming -- offense this weekend, the running game could be key. First, it could help the Patriots defense by controlling possession and keeping Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman off the field. Next are the obvious advantages for the signal-caller who could use a stress-free day in the pocket to help him solve his recent accuracy issues. 

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