Patriots

Did Tom Brady really suck in Patriots-Titans game Sunday? A throw-by-throw analysis

Did Tom Brady really suck in Patriots-Titans game Sunday? A throw-by-throw analysis

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 DRIVE

  • 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.  

SECOND DRIVE

  • 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.

THIRD DRIVE

  • 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.

FOURTH DRIVE

  • 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. 

FIFTH DRIVE

  • 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. 

SIXTH DRIVE

  • 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. 

SEVENTH DRIVE

  • 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. 

EIGHTH DRIVE

  • 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. 

NINTH DRIVE

  • 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. 

TENTH DRIVE

  • 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. 

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Patriots' poor run defense has become a massive liability

Patriots' poor run defense has become a massive liability

Over the course of an NFL season, problems crop up.

Teams get a read on what you’re doing. They get in the lab to see how they can counter it. 

They get on the field and attack it, next thing you know you’ve got a developing issue.

For good teams, the problems are usually temporary. The coaching staff is smart enough to figure it out, the players have the acumen to understand the tweaks that need to be made and the skill to carry them out.

For the Patriots defense, the most pressing problem facing them currently is knocking down ballcarriers after they are handed the football.

They haven’t been “good” all year at stopping opposing rushing attacks but they were serviceable until the past two weeks.

But it’s suddenly gone from a reality the team can live with to a bona fide concern.

In the first half against Miami, the Dolphins ran the ball 12 times for 142 yards. There was a run-stuff on first down (followed by a 6-yard run on second-down) and a loss of 2 on a second-and-21 play just before the half. Otherwise, every run gained at least 4 yards.

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Included in there were a first-and-10 run by Brandon Bolden for 54-yards and another first-and-10 run by Frank Gore that went for 36. There was also a 16-yard run on a second-and-10 by Gore.

A week earlier, against the Vikings, carries of 32, 18 and 18 all came on first-and-10 plays.

The Patriots are allowing 4.8 yards per carry for the season. They’ve allowed 625 yards on 110 carries in their last five (5.68 yards per carry).

The last time they had a capable performance against the run was against the Bills and and Derek Anderson (19 for 46). That was preceded by games against Kansas City and Chicago when those teams combined for 228 yards on 42 carries. Take out the Bills game because that was less than an NFL-ready offense that day and the Patriots have allowed 5.6 yards per carry in their past seven games.

On a Tuesday conference call, Bill Belichick was asked what he attributed the malaise to.  

He noted it was a problem rooted in “team defense.”

“It starts with coaching so we’ve got to do a better job of coaching all aspects of it and executing it,” he stated. “It’s not one play. It’s a combination of our overall execution and consistency. It starts with the coaching.”

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That’s not real illuminating.  

De facto defensive coordinator Brian Flores was a bit more direct.

“The run game’s been something that we need to do a much better job of coaching, do a better job of playing,” he began. “We’ve got to do a better job of getting off blocks, got to do a better job with our angles in the secondary. It’s something we’re going to spend a lot of time on. It’s something we have spent a lot of time on. Teams are going to keep running the ball or attempting to run the ball until we do something to stop it. Obviously, that’s at the top of my priority list and our priority list as a defensive staff.”

This week, the Patriots play the Steelers. Pittsburgh’s run for 206 yards in its past four games combined. Those yards came on 63 carries (3.2 yards per carry). Le’Veon Bell isn’t there. James Conner is hurt. This shouldn’t be that hard.

“It starts up front,” said former Patriots captain and linebacker Jerod Mayo on Quick Slants The Podcast. “It always starts up front. (Defensive tackle) Malcom (Brown) isn’t playing well. He was getting pushed out of there left and right. They have to fix it. And the way you fix it in the short term, the way you put a Band-Aid on that, what do you do? 

You rock a safety down. You run pressures. And what happens after that? You’re leaving guys out on an island. So it’s like pick your poison.

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“The D-Line is playing at an F level,” Mayo added. “Whether your run defense is good or bad, it starts at the front.”

Lawrence Guy and Trey Flowers have been the Patriots best defensive linemen this season. Adam Butler has played well. But the work of the 6-2, 320-pound Malcom Brown and 6-2, 345-pound Danny Shelton has been forgettable.

Shelton, a disappointment in Cleveland, was acquired to be a replacement for Alan Branch. The mercurial, 6-6, 350-pound Branch joined the Patriots in 2014 as Vince Wilfork’s Patriots career was winding down. He was a more than adequate replacement for Big Vince.

Shelton can’t even be mentioned in the same sentence as Branch, who was occasionally dominant.

“We’ll practice to get it better,” promised Flores. “We’re on the players to get it better and I think they’ve got the mindset that they know they’ve got to get it. We’ve got to get that part of our defense. It’s got to be much better than it’s been, and hopefully we do that.

“It will start (Wednesday) in practice … We’ve talked about it, we’ve corrected it and we’ve just got to go out there and produce and simply play better in the run game. …It comes back to fundamentals, technique, communication, playing physical and really as a team, just playing better run defense and obviously putting that on ourselves. It starts with me and us as coaches, and we’ll do everything in our power to right those wrongs.”

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NFL legend says Tom Brady's stats show "deterioration is coming"

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NFL legend says Tom Brady's stats show "deterioration is coming"

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has his performances dissected in a way few professional athletes can relate, but he's still playing at a very high level at age 41.

Sure, he's not posting MVP-caliber stats in 2018, but he's among the primary reasons why the Patriots enter Week 15 with the No. 2 seed in the AFC playoff picture and sit atop the AFC East with a 9-4 record.

Bleacher Report's Tyler Dunne recently did a piece on Brady that had input from former NFL players and coaches, and one of the topics discussed was the inevitable decline with the Patriots quarterback. One Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback, in particular, had some interesting observations on Brady's declining ability. 

"The numbers are starting to show that there's a deterioration coming," Warren Moon told B/R. "Especially when you talk about the blitzing because that's something he used to really excel at. You do start to lose some of your reflexes and responses. I started to figure that out later on in my career, too. Even though your mind knows where you should be going, sometimes your body just doesn't react as fast. You're starting to see some of that with him."

Later in the article Moon explains that he doesn't expect a steep drop off from Brady.

"I don't think you fall off a cliff, but it is gradual, and once that gradual [decline] starts, there's no turning back from it," Moon said. "It's not like you're going to recapture what you had before. I don't think he'll be able to go back and have another offseason where he can get back to the form he was two years ago. It's going to continue to keep sliding, and you just have to continue adjusting your game, and hopefully your offense and your offensive coaches will adjust and not have to rely on you as much to carry the football team as you have in the past."

Moon added: "Age is something none of us can avoid. Things are going to start to slow down. How fast? We really don't know. You can start to see some decline in Tom."

Moon's not wrong. Brady might not have the same arm strength or mobility he displayed in his 20s or 30s, but he's still just as or more talented than nearly all of the quarterbacks in the league. Let's face it, he's the reason why the Patriots have played in three of the last four Super Bowls and won two of them. 

Sunday's Week 14 matchup with the Miami Dolphins was a fine example of Brady's still-dominant skill set. Brady completed 27 of 43 pass attempts for 358 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. His touchdown pass to Cordarrelle Patterson was thrown with the type of zip typically seen from the younger quarterbacks with rocket arms. He shredded the Dolphins defense, but a disaster on the final play cost them a win.

Brady will eventually fall from the top-tier of quarterbacks if he plays long enough, but will that come in the immediate future? There's not much, if any evidene to suggest that it will. 

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