Patriots

Brady swings for the fences against Seahawks . . . and misses

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Brady swings for the fences against Seahawks . . . and misses

SEATTLE Even after all hes accomplished in his NFL career or perhaps because of it there are small things that Tom Brady uses as motivators.

On Sunday, after throwing a first-quarter touchdown pass to Aaron Hernandez, it seemed we got a look at what was fueling him against the Seahawks. He wanted to muzzle the much-ballyhooed 12th man of Seattle.

When Brady got back to the bench after that touchdown, he stared into the stands and made a point of letting them know what he thought of the home-field edge they were giving him. In the days leading up to the game, Brady talked of how he relishes getting a crowd to turn on its team.

Those words didnt go unheard in Seattle, as cornerback Richard Sherman indicated on Twitter after the game when he said,

Brady sure looks like a man who turned the 12thMan against us twitter.comRSherman_25st Richard Sherman (@RSherman_25) October 15, 2012

Maybe, just maybe, Tom Brady got himself a little too fired up on Sunday. He didnt want to win. He wanted to go for the throat.

Which might help explain why, when the Patriots were trying to run one quick play before the half to look for a touchdown before settling for the field goal, he worked too long trying to go for seven and the Patriots got nothing.

And that might be why Brady tried to go over Shermans head with a third-quarter pass to Deion Branch that you dont usually see him make. That throw was picked while Rob Gronkowski ran free underneath for what would have been another 10- to 12-yard gain.

In the second half of Sundays 24-23 loss, the harder Brady tried to stick the dagger in, the more he seemed to turn it on his own team.

I think we just need to do a better job when it counts, said Brady. We moved the ball up and down the field, a lot of guys were making plays, a lot of guys made some really great plays and we had some really good opportunities to score points.

Brady then looked at his own mistakes, recounting them.

The interception in the end zone on the throw to Wes Welker. We are driving the ball and I throw an interception to Sherman up the seam. I make a play at the end of the half to squander three points and you lose by one point and there are a lot of things we could have done better to not be in that situation. We have to do a better job and I have to do a better job.

Bradys numbers were great if you had him on your fantasy team 395 yards, 36 completions, two touchdowns but in real football, the mistakes that cost points cost the Patriots this game and dropped them to 3-3.

The squander before the half was lamentable.

That is my responsibility to take care of the football and do something good with it, said Brady. When the play comes in from the sidelines, they are not thinking that we are going to have intentional grounding. They trust me to be smart with the ball and to get three at the worst and I just made a bad play.

It was one of two groundings Brady had on the day. And it was part of a number of rushed or hurried throws Brady made when he seemed unnecessarily harried. A player whos known for poise lost his a little bit Sunday. You could see it when he flipped out on the refs as he lobbied rightly and wrongly for calls.

Maybe the shot to the noggin he took from Jason Jones in the third impacted his play some in the fourth. After going 31-for-45 for 324 yards in the first three quarters, he closed by going 5-for-13 for 71 yards with the end-zone pick to Welker.

Whatever happened late, Tom Brady didnt play like Tom Brady normally does. And the last word belonged to the Seahawks and their 12th man.

Giardi: After getting schooled, Butler's got to be better

Giardi: After getting schooled, Butler's got to be better

When the Patriots signed Stephon Gilmore in the offseason and then managed to keep Malcolm Butler around, the consensus was not only might this be the best 1-2 punch at cornerback the team has ever had, but maybe, just maybe, it was the best duo in the NFL this season. 

Newsflash: it hasn’t been. Not even close. 

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The latest example comes from Sunday night in Denver. Gilmore returned from a three-game absence (concussion) to play well against Demaryius Thomas in that 41-16 win. The same can’t be said of Butler. He spent much of his day playing man-to-man versus Emmanuel Sanders and struggled mightily.

Butler’s issues started on the very first play. He got lost along the sidelines and surrendered a 31-yard catch. Butler initially had Sanders blanketed. The two were lined up outside the numbers along the left sideline. Based on the formation, and the alignment of safety Devin McCourty, it was pretty clear Butler was alone on an island. Sanders initially drove inside before straightening out his route. Then he cut sharply, working speedily to the flat. Butler had a good beat on the play but unwisely peeked into the backfield. That’s when Sanders turned up and found nothing but green grass.

“I would just say I’d just tip my hat to him,” said Butler. “It was a great route. He steered me in. Then he went up then went out then went back up so I thought that was it. It was a little more than I expected. You gotta learn from it and play it better next time.”

On the same drive, he was beaten again by Sanders, this time for 13 yards. The Pats defense tightened up and held Denver to a field goal but a pattern had already been established between the Patriots' 27-year-old cornerback and Sanders.

The next big play Butler coughed up came with 4:13 to play in the second quarter. Broncos QB Brock Osweiler summoned Sanders to come across the formation via motion but then sent him back as the wideout approached the tackle box. Butler overreacted, trying to jump out ahead of the motion while simultaneously looking into the backfield. It was then he realized Sanders had done an about-face. To his credit, Butler recovered and jumped on Sanders shortly after the snap of the ball, actually shoving the receivers’ right shoulder in an attempt to disrupt the pattern. 

As Sanders turned upfield, he appeared well-covered by Butler. But then another old habit that’s been hard for Butler to break appeared. He lost track of the ball once it took flight. Sanders slapped on the brakes and high-pointed the football while Butler watched, helplessly flat-footed. Chalk up another 23-yard gain.

“I would just say he underthrew it and I got pushed by,” said Butler. “I probably burst because I was expected the ball to come too. You just got to play it the best way you can. Things happen. He just made a great play. I was in good position but not good enough.”

Sanders caught one more pass on the drive, and should have had a touchdown in the second quarter, streaking past Butler toward the end zone. But Osweiler made a terrible throw, unable to even keep it in the field of play. Hence another field goal instead of a touchdown. Bullet dodged - and there were a few.

“You can’t win with three all day,” said Butler of the defense’s red-zone efficiency. “They’re very hard on us on protecting the red area and not giving up touchdowns in the red area. Bend but don’t break. That’s been the motto.”

The Patriots would break later and Sanders beating Butler was a part of it. The play coming about five minutes into the third quarter on Denver's only TD-scoring drive. The Broncos came out in trips, employing a bunch formation that had plagued the Patriots so often the first month of the season. Unlike then, the Pats handled communication perfectly and as Sanders worked toward the seam, Butler had good position and help toward the post, with safety Duron Harmon eyeballing Sanders the entire way. So did Butler do? He gave up outside leverage, with Sanders breaking hard to the flag. Butler’s footwork was a mess - he got spun around like he was auditioning for "Dancing With the Stars" - and was unable to recover until Sanders had picked up another 23 yards.

“Another good route,” said Butler. “He got me thinking inside and broke out. He’s a good player. A great receiver.”

There’s no denying Sanders’ talent, but Butler has got to be better and more consistent. He’s too often been lost in coverage or gotten caught gambling, eyeballing a big play that’s rarely come in 2017. With their issues up front, it’s the Pats secondary that’s going to have to lead the way. The corners have only occasionally played to the level expected of them. The clock is ticking. Thanksgiving is right around the corner and if you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a thousand times: this is when the Patriots want to be playing their best football. About time Butler answered the call.