A bad mix of circumstances led to an ugly offensive performance by the Patriots on Sunday.
There were injuries – tight end Rob Gronkowski and right guard Shaq Mason didn’t play while tackles Marcus Cannon and Trent Brown were dinged during the game.
That led to spotty protection of Tom Brady who was unnerved by the pressure early and spent a lot of the day throwing wild and ducking for cover as he went 21 for 41 for 254 yards and no touchdown passes, his third straight game without a TD pass.
WHAT WE SAID BEFORE THE GAME
The Patriots running game was ineffective against Tennessee’s very solid front-seven which meant too many second and third-and-longs which only increased the pressure Brady was feeling.
And then you had a defensive game plan hatched by a coordinator - Dean Pees - and head coach - Mike Vrabel - who knew exactly what could make life difficult for the Patriots.
Press at the line of scrimmage, attack sideways throws aggressively and limit opportunities for catch-and-run yards after dumpoff passes.
James White, who’s been such a weapon this season, caught five passes for 31 yards on eight targets. The Titans made a priority of limiting him by making sure that he had plenty of company every time he caught it.
Josh Gordon wound up being the most-frequently targeted player. Brady went to him 12 times but only completed four. One of those eight incompletions was a pure drop by Gordon in the first quarter. Another was a catchable ball that went through his hands. But there were other Brady misfires in his direction.
MORE HARD TRUTHS
In the second quarter, Brady – afforded great protection – directed Gordon across the end zone. But when he wound up to deliver the ball, it landed around the 10-yard line. There was also a sideline throw that saw Gordon slip as Brady delivered the ball. But even as Gordon straightened up, the ball wobbled well over his head and out of bounds. Gordon didn’t provide great returns on contested catches either.
But Sunday saw Brady at his most jittery. Knowing the easy throws short throws weren’t going to be there because of the press coverage and aggressiveness, Brady had to hold it longer to let things develop downfield and he clearly didn’t have confidence he was going to get the time he needed for that. The result? A poor day for accuracy and an impotent day throwing to everyone except for Julian Edelman, who wound up with nine catches on his 12 targets and 104 receiving yards.
Edelman left the game in the second half with a foot injury which – given his impact the past two weeks – is a big concern going forward.
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