Patriots

Brady leads another offensive show, sets record

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Brady leads another offensive show, sets record

By Mary Paoletti
CSNNE.com

Add Buffalo to the list of Tom Brady's NFL casualties.

"I haven't seen anybody slow them down offensively," Bills coach Chan Gailey said of the Patriots last week. "They're just like a machine out there. It's been quite a show.''

After New England beat Buffalo 34-3 on Sunday, you almost had to wonder if Gailey felt like shrugging about the points allowed. Did he believe his Bills would be the team to shut Brady down? Probably not. The Patriots quarterback is having another MVP-caliber season.

On Sunday, Brady threw three touchdown passes and set the record for attempts without an interception.

Gaily was aware of the tally before the Patriots rolled into Buffalo. "It's very amazing," he said of Bradys streak.

Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick -- who, by comparison, went 18-for-37 with three picks and zero touchdowns -- was equally awed.

"It's unbelievable,'' he said. "It's mind-boggling."

Hear that, Terrell Suggs?

Brady now has 319 straight passes without a pick, surpassing Bernie Kosar's previous mark of 308. And he's doing it in one season.

Kosar made his mark in Cleveland from 1990-91 and Bart Starr tallied 294 pickless pass attempts in Green Bay from 1964-65. Brady's thrown his total in a span of nine NFL weeks.

"The work he puts into it is second to none,'' teammate Logan Mankins said after the game. "He's a competitor and he just wants to get better and he just wants to win. You can tell that with how he prepares."

That's why it's not strange that the Bills sounded like they wanted to carry him into Ralph Wilson Stadium on a litter. Touting the talents of TB12 isn't about kissing butt or exchanging pleasantries, it's about numbers.

The Patriots scored 21 points off seven Bills turnovers.

Brady has thrown two or more TD passes with no interceptions in eight consecutive games, an NFL record.

New England scored 24 (or more) first-half points for the third time in four games, and the fourth time this year.

With 31 points against Buffalo, the Patriots have scored 30 or more points in seven straight games. This streak is the NFL's longest since 1970.

The Patriots have committed zero turnovers in those seven games, an NFL record.

The landscape has changed. There's no Corey Dillion, no more Brady-to-Moss, no Kevin Faulk on third down, and this Sunday there was hardly any Welker.

Wes Welker -- "Brady's Binky" as some call him -- had as many dropped balls as he did receptions against the Bills. He lost his grip on a short second-and-six screen pass the first time. The second, Brady looked short left but Welker bobbled the ball at the Buffalo 11 when crossing the middle on third-and-six and killed the drive. He had another in the third quarter.

And so Brady's quarterback rating dipped this weekend. That's right, he no longer leads the NFL with a 109.9 score. He now leads it at 109.8.

No matter. New England got it done in different ways.

Rookie tight end Rob Gronkowski had a big day, catching two of Brady's three touchdown passes on the day. The second score, on a beautiful back-shoulder grab, was Gronkowski's ninth TD of the season, tying Ben Coates (1996) for most TDs by a Patriots TE in franchise history. (Yes, another record for one of Brady's boys.) Fellow TE Alge Crumpler had the other touchdown.

The ground game was gaudy: 217 rush yards largely gained from former free agents BenJarvus Green Ellis (104) and Danny Woodhead (93). Even there, Brady's teammates saw his fingerprints all over the ball

"Days like today when he's handing off a lot, he's making the right checks and all that, so . . . there's more to quarterback than just throwing," Mankins said.

The yardage might have been a gimmie against Buffalo's 32nd-ranked rush defense, but consider this: Brady and his offense are 7-2 against top 10 scoring defenses (fewest points allowed) this season. The Patriots are averaging 29.6 points per game when playing the league's stingiest defenses when the rest of the NFL is averaging 16.7 points.

"I don't think as a lineman we have any comprehension,'' center Dan Koppen said. "I know it's a tough job, what he has to do, how many reads he has to make and get the ball out. What he does to this point in his career is nothing shocking."

Imagine creating a standard so high that setting records is pedestrian. It's not that nobody's impressed as each throw carves Brady's name higher into the All-Time QB totem pole. It's that they've come to expect their quarterback to play at a Hall of Fame level every week.

"He's definitely what you expect, I mean what everyone says,'' Danny Woodhead said. "He does everything well and he pays the attention to detail that he has to. He's a great quarterback, like everyone's seen."

Would New England be 13-2 if Brady wasn't near-perfect? Think about that.

Would this offense have blood-lust if he wasn't screaming about penalties though padded with a 30-point lead? Would the 2010 Patriots have clinched the division and home-field advantage in the playoffs if Brady wasn't its nucleus? If he wasn't so boringly brilliant?

"It never gets old, I'll tell you that,'' the quarterback smiled postgame. "We never get tired of winning.''

Good thing. With the way he's playing, the Patriots aren't done winning yet.

Tom E. Curran contributed to this report.

Mary Paoletti can be reached at mpaoletti@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Mary on Twitter at http:twitter.comMary_Paoletti

Will the real Jaguars defense please stand up?

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Will the real Jaguars defense please stand up?

FOXBORO -- Are we giving the Jaguars defense too much credit?

The numbers, on the surface, paint Jacksonville's defense as one of the best the NFL has seen in years. They finished the season as the league's top passing defense in terms of yards allowed, and they were second when it came to points allowed, total yards and sacks.

MORE - Bortles earning respect from teammates, Patriots

Then there are the postseason awards that have been bestowed upon their defensive regulars. Jalen Ramsey, AJ Bouye, Calais Campbell and Malik Jackson have all been named Pro Bowlers. Ramsey and Campbell are First-Team All-Pros, while Bouye and Telvin Smith are Second-Teamers. Campbell is in the running for Defensive Player of the Year. 

So why, then, is there this lingering feeling that the Jaguars defense isn't all it's cracked up to be? They allowed Ben Roethlisberger to heave his way to 42 points in the Divisional Round. In Week 16, they gave up 44 to Jimmy Garoppolo and the Niners. Hell, Blaine Gabbert and the Cardinals put up 27 and beat them in Week 12. 

Those results don't exactly scream "all-time defense." So what is Jacksonville? Overrated? Properly rated? 

One thing is for certain: The Jags played an easy schedule. The combined winning percentage of their opponents in 2017 was a league-low 44 percent. And when it comes to the defense in particular, they had the second-easiest schedule in the league, according to Football Outsiders. It didn't hurt that they were able to play the Colts with Jacoby Brissett, the Texans before Deshaun Watson became a star and after he got hurt, and the NFL's No. 23-ranked Titans offense. Twice. Each. They also got the Ravens (No. 27 offense), Jets (No. 28), Bengals (No. 32), Browns (No. 24) and Cardinals (No. 22). Add it all up and that's nine games -- more than half their schedule -- against bottom-third NFL offenses. Two more games came against a Houston offense that featured starting quarterbacks Tom Savage and TJ Yates. 

When you dig into the analytics it's harder to find ways to poke holes in Jacksonville's credibility as a top-tier defensive unit. Pro Football Focus grades the Jags as their No. 1 defense, and it's really not close. Football Outsiders calls them their No. 1 defense in terms of DVOA. Even when you factor in some of its recent performances -- like letdowns versus the Steelers and Niners -- Jacksonville is still the league's No. 4 defense in weighted DVOA, which is adjusted so that games that were played earlier in the season are gradually less important. 

At the same time, the analytics can be occasionally unkind to the Jaguars. Football Outsiders has them ranked as one of the most inconsistent defenses in the league. According to their variance statistic, Jacksonville is the fourth most inconsistent defense in football. A deeper dive into the numbers has also located an apparent soft underbelly of the Jaguars defense. Per Warren Sharp of Sharp Football Analysis, the Jaguars are dominant against three-receiver sets -- No. 1 in the league, in fact -- but they're the No. 23 defense in the NFL when it comes to defending personnel groupings that feature one or two wide receivers. That would explain, in part, why the Titans (who Sharp rated as the least-likely team to employ three-receiver sets this season) and Niners (who went with more "21" and "12" personnel looks late in the season) were able to beat the Jaguars. 

The most difficult argument against the legitimacy of the Jaguars' defensive rankings is the talent they put on the field on a weekly basis. Their roster, defensively at least, stacks up with some of the most imposing defensive units in recent memory. The Seahawks had four First and Second-Team All-Pros on their defense in 2014. The Broncos defense had five Pro Bowlers in 2015. The Jaguars have five players who were named either All-Pros or Pro Bowlers or both this year, and they probably should've had a sixth in pass-rusher Yannick Ngakoue, who recorded 12 sacks (eighth in the NFL) and a league-best six forced fumbles. 

The verdict? The Jaguars defense is loaded with blue-chip players. It will be the best unit the Patriots offense has seen this year. But they have been inconsistent, they have holes -- which we touched upon in this week's Quick Slants the Podcast with Jerod Mayo -- and there remains the very real possibility that Tom Brady and his teammates will light up the Gillette Stadium scoreboard on Sunday. 

Now, is Brady healthy? Good question. Will he have enough time to throw? We'll see. But if the answer to both of those questions is "yes" (or "enough"), then the Patriots should be headed to Minnesota. This Jaguars defense is very good, but it's far from inpenetrable.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

BEST OF BST PODCAST: Tom Brady injures right hand during practice

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BEST OF BST PODCAST: Tom Brady injures right hand during practice

0:41 - Tom Brady injured his right hand during practice on Wednesday. Tom Curran, Albert Breer, Michael Holley, and Tom Giles discuss how this injury could impact Brady’s ability to throw against the Jaguars on Sunday.

6:06 - Isaiah Thomas has asked the Celtics to cancel his video tribute on Paul Pierce Night, and Pierce said that Thomas was trying to ‘punk’ Danny Ainge into a tribute video. Michael Holley, Kyle Draper, and Tom Giles debate if Isaiah Thomas or Paul Pierce is in the wrong.

11:19 - Albert Breer discusses how much credit Tom Coughlin deserves for the Jaguars great season and if Coughlin’s success against the Patriots and Bill Belichick will come into play on Sunday.

15:37 - Joe Haggerty joins BST from the TD Garden to break down the Bruins win over the Canadiens and Claude Julien’s return to Boston.

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO THE EPISODE