Brady recorded best deep-ball performance in almost three years vs. Browns

Brady recorded best deep-ball performance in almost three years vs. Browns

FOXBORO -- Organizations around the NFL have long since figured out that defending Tom Brady often means death by a thousand cuts. With an accurate arm, an ability to diagnose quickly, and receivers who excel in the short-to-intermediate range on the field, Brady has carefully carved his way to becoming one of the best to ever play his position. 

There was a time when Brady had the game's best deep threat at his disposal in Randy Moss, and the offense shifted. But since then, as game plans have centered more around the abilities of his slot receivers, pass-catching backs and tight ends, Brady has gone back to being the league's preeminent surgeon.

During Sunday's 33-13 win over the Browns, however, Brady showcased that long-ball aspect of his game once again. He completed 4-of-6 passes that traveled at least 20 yards in the air, racking up 180 yards and a touchdown on those attempts. 

It was a rare aerial display for the 39-year-old. According to data compiled by Pro Football Focus, Brady's first game back from a four-game suspension was his most productive deep down the field since he completed 4-of-6 deep throws for 193 yards and two scores in a Week 9 win over the Steelers back in 2013. 

Brady explained on Wednesday that although he was not able to participate in practice or enter the Patriots facilities during his suspension, he worked to stay sharp with his mechanics, which helped lead to his prolific performance against the Browns. 

"I’ve always worked pretty hard on my mechanics and making sure I’m doing things the right way mechanically," he said. "I think that’s translated into a lot of throws, but hopefully I can hit those ones down the field. Those are big ones. They change the whole field positon."

Brady hit on two such throws to receiver Chris Hogan (for 63 and 43 yards) in the second quarter. He also completed one down the right sideline to tight end Martellus Bennett for a 37-yard score in the third quarter, and he hit tight end Rob Gronkowski down the seam for another big-gainer in the fourth. 

The odds may not be in Brady's favor in terms of his ability to replicate his down-the-field performance this week against the Bengals. Last year, he hit on multiple passes that traveled 20 yards or more in the air in seven of 18 games, including playoffs. And only four times between that win over Pittsburgh in 2013 and last weekend has Brady accumulated 100 yards or more on those throws. 

Brady understands the payoff of those deep attempts, though, and given the number of options he seems to trust in the passing game this season, maybe he'll be willing to take more shots in 2016.

"It shows up on the stat sheet a little differently," Brady said, "but the production is great when you’re able to kind of hit those homerun balls."

Report: Patriots special teams ace Slater visiting Steelers

Report: Patriots special teams ace Slater visiting Steelers

Patriots seven-time Pro Bowl special teamer Matthew Slater is in Pittsburgh on Saturday making a free-agent visit to the rival Steelers, according to an ESPN's Field Yates.

Slater, who turns 33 in September, has spent the past 10 seasons in a New England. The special teams captain and one of the leaders in the locker room signed a one-year, $1.8 million contract extension in 2016.

The Patriots lost special teamer Johnson Bademosi to the Texans in free agency on Friday but signed special teamers Brandon Bolden and Brandon King just before the free agency period began.

More to come...

Brady tests his 'Brady Bunch' knowledge on NPR

Brady tests his 'Brady Bunch' knowledge on NPR

Tom Brady has been making the media rounds lately with "Good Morning America" and "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert" appearances this past week to promote his "Tom vs. Time" series and TB12 Method book. On Saturday, Brady was a phone-in guest on NPR's "Wait, Wait...Don't Tell Me" for their "Not My Job" segment. 

Before a mostly cheering live audience in Hartford and after a discussion of the benefits and drawbacks - mostly drawbacks - of tomatoes and strawberries, plus an assessment of the intelligence of most defensive coordinators, Brady settled in to handle three questions about the world's second-most famous Bradys, the family from the classic sitcom - "The Brady Bunch".

Click here to listen and see how he did.