FOXBORO — Tom Brady's frustration level with the Patriots offense over the course of the season has been understandable. He knows they're capable of doing more than getting into the teens on the scoreboard, as they've done each of the last two weeks.
"I'd like to see us reach our potential as an offense," Brady told Westwood One's Jim Gray ahead of last weekend's game with the Cowboys. "I don't think we've got there yet."
They may be getting closer, though, now that their starting left tackle Isaiah Wynn is back in the fold — even after scoring just 13 over the weekend.
It was far from a perfect return for Wynn after he sat out eight weeks on injured reserve. He allowed a strip sack, two hits and two quarterback hurries. But his presence on the left side, against a talented Cowboys pass rush that one rival NFC evaluator described to me as "a problem," seemed to settle things down for the Patriots passing game.
If Wynn can help provide Brady with a little more time, there's no question the Patriots offense will start to approach that ceiling Brady is so desperate to reach on a more regular basis.
Consider these numbers, courtesy of Pro Football Focus, illustrating just how critical it is for Brady to get the time he needs in the pocket:
- Brady under pressure: 59.1 accuracy percentage (takes into account drops, throwaways, passes batted at the line), 48.3 rating
- Brady kept clean: 78.8 accuracy percentage, 103.4 rating
Brady's rating under pressure is one of the worst in football (27th). His rating when kept clean, meanwhile, puts him just ahead of the middle of the pack (13th). His protection is key. And with Wynn back on Sunday, despite the pressures allowed by the second-year player out of Georgia, Brady's protection seemed to experience a sudden boost.
After averaging 2.51 seconds to throw through the first 10 games of the season, Brady had 2.71 seconds to throw against Dallas, per PFF. Though that may seem like a small uptick, Brady's results down the field had him looking like a different quarterback than the one who showed up in Philadelphia the week prior.
With little time to throw and little in the way of down-the-field threats, Brady was off the mark on a variety of passes against the Eagles. On those plays, he was typically either pressured, put on the move by design (often to avoid pressure off the left side), or hurried when he didn't necessarily have to be. That last category of throw — where he simply looks uncomfortable — seemed to suddenly go away Sunday at Gillette Stadium.
Any coincidence it was because he was more confident in the play of his left tackle? Brady was pining for Wynn back in October.
"We have one [player] that we’re hoping can return from injury, Isaiah Wynn, who was our left tackle to start the year," Brady told Gray at the time. "He’s working hard and progressing, and any time you get players back, it not only improves the depth of the team, but you get some youthful exuberance, as well.
'"So any time you get players back from injury, I think it’s a benefit to the team ... We’re certainly hoping Isaiah can come back at some point.”
With Wynn back, Brady went from barely trying passes down the field against the Eagles, to thriving with his feet set on deep shots.
This 23-yard completion to a diving Julian Edelman late in the fourth quarter might've been one of his best throws of the season. Poor throwing conditions, into the wind (notice the flags atop the field goal uprights), and he drops it on a dime to his favorite target.
Wynn checks in here with a nice one-on-one rep against Michael Bennett. It looks initially like he might set a little too wide off the snap, especially with Sony Michel trying to pitch in with a chip, but he recovers and shuffles to cut off Bennett's rush before he can bother Brady.
From snap to throw, Brady has over three seconds.
Through 11 games, per @PFF...— Phil Perry (@PhilAPerry) November 27, 2019
* Tom Brady under pressure: 59.1 accuracy percentage, 48.3 rating
* Tom Brady kept clean: 78.8 accuracy percentage, 103.4 rating
Re-watching his deeper throws (including drops) from Sunday, and he’s still extremely accurate when he has time. pic.twitter.com/AwYVg0QP6t
Earlier in the game, Wynn and left guard Joe Thuney handle a two-man game to give Brady all the time he needs to find Edelman deep down the left side of the field. Notice Brady's demeanor in the pocket. Even with Maliek Collins getting close, his footwork makes it look as though he's making a warmup toss in training camp.
From snap to throw, I clocked Brady as having 2.8 seconds.
Brady’s misses in Philly seemed to be when he was pressured, on the move by design, or just uncomfortable (hurried when he didn’t really need to be).— Phil Perry (@PhilAPerry) November 27, 2019
Even against a good Dallas pass-rush, he looked more at ease in the pocket and made several accurate throws down the field. pic.twitter.com/ZzLG5ltKhG
This next throw might've been Brady's best pocket of the night. It was a third-and-eight play during a two-minute drill. Obvious passing situation. The Cowboys were able to pin their ears back and get up the field as their scheme encourages them to do almost across situations. Yet Brady may as well be on the beach here considering how easily he makes this throw to Jakobi Meyers for 23 yards.
Wynn gets some help on Robert Quinn here from James White, and Brady has more than enough time to go execute his mechanics. From snap to throw, he had over 3.5 seconds. That's a quarterback's dream.
In his first 10 games, per @PFF, Brady had an average time to throw of 2.51 seconds (27th). In Week 12, that number went to 2.71 seconds thanks to plays like these.— Phil Perry (@PhilAPerry) November 27, 2019
Had maybe his best pocket of the night here to find Jakobi Meyers on third and long. Over 3.5s from snap to throw. pic.twitter.com/TNgX2cvchK
Brady, as you'll see here, and as you've seen over the course of the last several seasons, still has the ability to buy some time for himself when he needs to. It just can't be a jailbreak up front.
On this snap, Wynn does all he can with Quinn's speed rush that starts to the outside and then cuts in. Brady senses the space outside, dips around both players as Wynn washes Quinn down the line, turns his shoulders and fires a strike to Edelman 20 yards down the field, on a line.
From snap to throw, thanks in part to his own quickness and instincts, Brady had about 3.5 seconds to throw yet again.
Doesn’t have to be perfect, either. Brady can still buy himself time and be accurate down the field.— Phil Perry (@PhilAPerry) November 27, 2019
Pretty impressive quickness here to step around Robert Quinn and Isaiah Wynn, turn his shoulders, and fire a strike to Julian Edelman 20 yards down the field on third and 20. pic.twitter.com/wdZ1KTV7u8
The Patriots offense wasn't loaded with talent against Dallas. They were without Mohamed Sanu and Phillip Dorsett — two of their top four receivers. But when Brady has time, he's still special. When he has time, even his reserve receivers can uncover for big gains down the field.
Brady clearly still believes this offense has more potential than it has shown. He clearly still believes he's capable of drawing it out. He just needs a little bit of time. Despite a few hiccups in his first game back, having Wynn back looks like it will go a long way in providing Brady the extra split seconds he needs.
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