It didn’t look good Sunday on first watch. But you can’t really get the “why” of a bad performance watching it live.
So in order to add some context to Tom Brady’s 21-for-41, 254-yard, zero-touchdown, zero-trust performance, I watched and charted every one of Brady’s 41 throws before he was lifted in the fourth quarter with the Patriots trailing 34-10 and seven minutes remaining.
Because of the standard he’s set, Brady’s going to get the brunt of the blame when the offense looks dysfunctional. But when it looks easy and he’s standing flat-footed in the pocket just waiting for the perfect amount of separation before he hits somebody on the hands and in stride, it’s everybody working in concert -- playcaller, protection, receiver, Brady and a defense the Patriots are making bend to their will.
There was no bending will from the Titans on Sunday. That was the first problem. What were the others?
Throw-by-throw we go.
- FIRST AND TEN FROM NEW ENGLAND 20: From shotgun, Brady throws a flair to James White on the left behind the line of scrimmage. Kenny Vaccaro, in zone and initially with Josh Gordon, immediately diagnoses, leaves Gordon when Brady’s head turns to White and drills White in the thighs as the ball arrived. Loss of three, great defense.
- SECOND AND THIRTEEN FROM NEW ENGLAND 17: Patriots run play-action then fake a reverse. The Titans send four, including linebacker Kamalei Correa who overpowers tight end Dwayne Allen and walks through late help from Marcus Cannon. Brady sees it and bails, throwing to Julian Edelman
- on the left. The ball is low and wild and even if it was on target Edelman would have been dropped by Vaccaro for a loss. Incomplete. Great defense, bad protection.
- THIRD AND THIRTEEN FROM NEW ENGLAND 17: Brady gets Josh Gordon down the seam on a skinny post after he beat Wesley Woodyard. Gordon has to slow his stride to pull it in. The Titans sent four and the play gained 44, but had Brady laid it out in front of Gordon a little more he could have had a bigger gain. Good throw but not a really good throw might have meant six. Good protection, good catch, OK throw.
- FIRST AND TEN FROM TENNESSEE 34: Brady overshoots Gordon on the left sideline at the Titans 20. The throw came out with the nose of the football pointing up and -- even though it went through Gordon’s hands as he leaped -- it was a poor throw.
- SECOND AND TEN FROM TENNESSEE 34: Off play-action to White, the Patriots threw an inside screen to Gordon. The play was perfectly diagnosed by Titans corner Adoree Jackson for no gain. Great defense. Not a terrific playcall.
- THIRD AND TEN FROM TENNESSEE 34: Titans send five rushers, Brady delivers on time and accurately to Gordon, running another skinny post on the left and the ball goes through his hands incomplete. Good throw. Bad play by Gordon. Patriots get field goal. 7-3, Titans.
- FIRST AND TEN FROM NEW ENGLAND 24: Brady throws behind White running a cross from the left. On first watch, I just thought it was a terrible throw. On review, Marcus Cannon was driven back into Brady’s face, obscuring his vision and making it difficult to step into and finish the throw. Bad protection.
- THIRD AND EIGHT FROM NEW ENGLAND 26: Titans blitz, White is beaten on blitz pickup by Woodyard and it’s an 11-yard sack. Bad protection.
- FIRST AND TEN FROM NEW ENGLAND 25: Play action to Cordarrelle Patterson, Edelman comes in motion left to right then crosses the Titans defense which is in zone and Brady -- with the chance to set his feet and wait -- delivers in stride to Edelman, who gains 29.
- FIRST AND TEN FROM TENNESSEE 34: Play-action, Brady delivers on-time and in-stride to Gordon on a slant starting on the right. Gordon got great separation out of his break and gained 14.
- SECOND AND SEVEN FROM TENNESSEE 17: After a short gain by Sony Michel, Brady threw a bullet to Edelman on the short left as he ran an option route turning toward the sideline. Edelman turns immediately and bulls forward for six. Very good play by Edelman to change direction after the catch and get the yardage.
- FOURTH AND TWO FROM TENNESSEE 12: After Brady got stopped for no gain on his sneak when Joe Thuney and his man rolled into Brady’s legs, Patterson came in motion on a fourth-down play so that White ended up singled against Woodyard with the rest of the right side of the field empty. Brady half rolls and completes to White for 11 yards. Leads to James Develin touchdown. 17-10, Titans.
- FIRST AND TEN FROM NEW ENGLAND 30: Play action to Michel, absolutely no pressure, Brady sets feet and throws a strike to Edelman who gains 30. Good throw, good catch, good protection, good playcall.
- SECOND AND NINE FROM TENNESSEE 39: Off play-action and a fake reverse to Patterson, Brady has loads of time to wait for Gordon running down the left seam with inside leverage on his defender. But with a safety approaching from the right, Brady gestures for Gordon to break across the field to his right to cross up the approaching safety. Gordon doesn’t get the message and keeps running. When mild pressure comes, Brady can’t step into his throw and it bounces at the 2 while Gordon is on his belly at the back of the end zone. On first watch, I wondered if the ball slipped on Brady because it was so underthrown. It didn’t. Good protection, good playcall, Brady and Gordon not on same page.
- THIRD AND FOUR FROM TENNESSEE 34: White runs an out-breaking route to the sticks, Brady’s footwork is all gummed up and he throws low and outside even though he had time to set and throw. Bad throw.
- SECOND AND SIX FROM NEW ENGLAND 13: Play action to White, Brady threw to the left where Gordon was running a comeback and was about to get separation. But Gordon slipped coming out of his break and Brady’s throw was waaaayyy high and may have been hard to haul in even if Gordon hadn’t gone down. Bad throw.
- THIRD AND SIX FROM NEW ENGLAND 13: Titans send five but protection is OK. Gordon has a half-step on his man going down the right sideline but Brady rushes the throw and throws a low-trajectory pass that Gordon has to stop and try to fight back over the corner to pull in. Low-percentage, hurried throw that was probably the wrong variety as well.
- FIRST AND TEN FROM NEW ENGLAND 25: The last drive of the half starting with 1:09 remaining and the Patriots down 24-10. Blitzing LBs beat both Cannon and right guard Ted Karras from the second level, Allen was in momentarily to chip so the Patriots had three to block two and still Brady got hurried and stepped forward and threw inaccurately at White’s feet. Bad protection but Brady did have more room to his left to continue stepping up and buying time after he eluded the initial wave with some nimble pocket-work.
- SECOND AND TEN FROM NEW ENGLAND 25: Titans send four including a blitzing corner. Initial protection is OK and White picks up the blitz but as nobody comes open, Brady holds it for a moment then skips it in at the feet of Gordon as Brady gets sandwiched and dropped. It’s a throwaway and a coverage incompletion.
- THIRD AND TEN FROM NEW ENGLAND 25: Titans send three, Brady gets great protection and throws a dart to Edelman, perfectly placed so that Edelman is able to go down and get it and pick up the first down. Good protection, good throw, good catch.
- FIRST AND TEN FROM NEW ENGLAND 36: With 28 seconds left, La’Adrian Waddle -- in at left tackle -- gets beaten easily off the snap forcing Brady to step up and around the pressure. Brady looks to White in the short flat, sees he’s covered, brings it back down then throws to Philip Dorsett at the sticks. It’s a high throw but Dorsett -- who slipped along the sideline as Gordon did earlier in the quarter -- goes up to bring it in. One of Brady’s best plays of the day and a gain of 11.
- FIRST AND TEN FROM NEW ENGLAND 47: Simple little slant to Allen, who makes a nice catch on the well-placed throw and drives forward for the first down.
- SECOND AND TEN FROM TENNESSEE 42: After Brady killed the clock with a spike, the Patriots decide to take a shot at the end zone instead of attempting a 60-yard field goal. Brady -- under duress -- takes a sack as Logan Ryan gets there when Brady tries to step up.
So for the first half, there were five instances of poor protection. Once, the throw to Dorsett, Brady overcame it.
There was an OK throw that went for 44 to Gordon and a good throw to Gordon that was dropped.
For the plays that were “on” Brady, there were nine “good” throws, one “OK” one and four bad ones.
- SECOND AND NINE FROM NEW ENGLAND 36: A well-timed blitz by LB Jayon Brown overwhelms Karras and Brady immediately throws it away. Good defense, bad protection.
- THIRD AND NINE FROM NEW ENGLAND 36: Trent Brown is beaten off the left edge by Jayon Brown, forcing Brady to duck and move forward where he’s taken down by blitzing safety. Bad protection. Good defense.
- FIRST AND TEN FROM NEW ENGLAND 16: Edelman and Allen run a little game and Edelman sits down and gains eight.
- FIRST AND TEN FROM NEW ENGLAND 30: Off play action, Allen gets beaten off the right edge forcing a bailout throw by Brady that was wild in the direction of Chris Hogan. This is around where the sacks and pressure taken earlier seem like they’ve gotten Brady to the point where he’s decided he’s not going to try and make money with a losing hand on some of these plays that are doomed. Bad protection.
- SECOND AND TEN FROM NEW ENGLAND 30: Off play action, Brady has decent time but throws to a still-busy-running-his-route Edelman and hits him in the side of the helmet. Bad communication?
- THIRD AND TEN FROM NEW ENGLAND 30: The Titans send just three and pay for it as Brady has rare room to step up in the pocket. He hits Gordon with a laser on a skinny post and gains 25. Good protection, very good throw.
- FIRST AND TEN FROM TENNESSEE 47: Play action, and Trent Brown -- who’d made a nice play in protection on the previous down -- gets beaten badly when the Patriots roll right, maybe to set up a screen for White? Once he was beaten, Brown just watched Darius Kilgoe dive at Brady’s legs and miss. After that, with Brown almost standing stock still and watching, Woodyard gets into Brady’s legs forcing the throwaway. Worst play of the day for the offensive line among several of them. Brady threw it away downfield. Bad protection.
- SECOND AND TEN FROM TENNESSEE 47: Patriots run a screen to left to White and he picks up six. Standard play.
- THIRD AND FOUR FROM TENNESSEE 41: TE Jacob Hollister is targeted on a quick slants right over the head of the blitzing linebacker and Hollister dropped it. Good throw.
- FIRST AND TEN FROM NEW ENGLAND 25: Trailing 27-10 with 4:15 left in the third, the Titans send four, Brady has time to look left before coming back to Edelman posted up short on the right for a gain of six.
- SECOND AND FOUR FROM NEW ENGLAND 31: Brady, with pressure looming, still steps into throw and delivers at the sticks to White for six.
- SECOND AND FIFTEEN FROM NEW ENGLAND 32: After Waddle came in for Trent Brown at left tackle and almost got White killed on a running play for a loss of five, the Patriots run a screen to White that gains 11.
- THIRD AND FOUR FROM NEW ENGLAND 43: After looking to Edelman in the left flat and deciding against it, Brady turned and heaved it in the general direction of Gordon going down the right sideline. It wasn’t close – underthrown and way inside. Bad throw. OK protection.
- FIRST AND TEN FROM NEW ENGLAND 25: Off play action with mild pressure coming, Brady hits Hollister with a dart on a slant coming from the right. Good throw, good snatch catch, gain of 15.
- FIRST AND TEN FROM NEW ENGLAND 40: Off play action, Brady hits Edelman in the left flat for six. It was a good throw, came out quick and accurate. Edelman was hurt on the tackle.
- SECOND AND FOUR FROM NEW ENGLAND 46: Brady hit Edelman on the left as he sat down at the sticks for five yards.
- FIRST AND TEN FROM TENNESSEE 46: Brady threw into left seam into traffic for Gordon. Very tight window and it was broken up with a nice play from Adoree Jackson.
- SECOND AND TEN FROM TENNESSEE 46: Brady hits Edelman in the flat again and he’s hit immediately by Vaccaro. It’s nibbling time for the Patriots as they try to come back. Gain of three.
- FOURTH AND SIX FROM TENNESSEE 45: After the reverse pass from Edelman to Brady on third down gained six, it was fourth-and-one. Cannon flinched and made it fourth-and-six. Brady, on his final throw of the day, looked for Edelman coming out of the slot on an in-cut. Ryan made a nice play to reach over and break it up.
With Edelman injured and headed to the locker room and the Titans soon adding another touchdown, the Patriots put up the white flag with seven minutes left.
The biggest takeaway for me was this was a poor Patriots performance caused by several things. Brady was surely in the mix. He had some bad throws and poor decisions. But the Titans had a terrific plan and beat the Patriots up along the offensive line. Especially the Patriots tackles -- Brown, Cannon and Waddle. There were drops mixed in and there was bad communication.
To wrap it up, here’s a quick catalog of the Patriots’ third-down dropbacks from start to finish:
1) 44 yards to Gordon. 2) Gordon drop. 3) Sack. 4) Sneak for no yards. 5) Sack (wiped out by penalty). 6) Incomplete. 7) Incomplete. 8) 11 yards to Edelman. 9) Sack. 10) Sack. 11) 23 to Gordon. 12) Hollister drop. 13) Incomplete.
Just a bad day at the office.
Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.