Patriots

Tom Brady looks like he's at his wit's end with Patriots receivers' communication issues

Tom Brady looks like he's at his wit's end with Patriots receivers' communication issues

Tom Brady lost his mind for a second. He pointed up the field in the direction of Jakobi Meyers and screamed the type of scream he once reserved for Bill O'Brien back when the Texans coach was Patriots offensive coordinator.

"Go!" he shouted as he walked off the field following a failed Patriots third-down attempt.

It was just one in a series of missed connections between Brady and his receivers in Sunday's 28-22 loss to the Texans. While Brady finished with a nice-looking statistical line — 326 yards, three touchdowns, one interception — there was a point late in the third quarter when the Patriots had just nine points on the scoreboard and Brady was 18-for-39 (46 percent) with one touchdown and one pick. 

"We're battling," Brady said after the game. "We're trying as hard as we can. Hopefully we can make enough plays and be the best we can be. It all remains to be seen. 

"You can make a bunch of predictions and so forth. That's not what it's about. It's about going out there and doing it. A lot of guys made some plays tonight. Try to build on it, see if we can do better next week."

Brady took an optimistic approach at the end of his press conference at NRG Stadium, but during the game there were several moments where he seemed irked with the people paid to catch his passes. 

The play to Meyers wasn't the first. The first was Brady's lone target to rookie first-round pick N'Keal Harry. 

Harry's 6-foot-4, 225-pound frame is what makes him an enticing option on slants, but on a third down play in the first quarter, Harry was undercut. Houston corner Bradley Roby worked around Harry after tugging quickly on the receiver to slow him down. Harry stumbled and fell backward, Roby beat him to a spot and picked off Brady's pass.

"I mean, I guess I could've used my body more," Harry said after. "But . . . I haven't watched it on film. I gotta see it first."

On the following series came the Meyers play that set off Brady. On a third-and-six snap in the second quarter, Meyers went in motion and ran a quick out route to the sideline. Brady held onto the ball for an extra second, and he gestured to Meyers to get up the field with the play off schedule.

Meyers didn't. The rookie worked back to Brady to try to give his quarterback a target, he said after the game.

"He was trying to telling me to turn up and go," Meyers said. "I don't know honestly what I thought in the moment. I tried to push up, come back, give him a target. We were just on different pages."

That's what led to Brady's on-field explosion and then a lengthy address to his receivers while on the sidelines. The address just so happened to take place with Brady almost looking directly into an NBC camera. 

"We gotta be faster," Brady said, "quicker, more explosive, everything."

Brady seemed to lament that his pass-catchers were playing robotically and not aggressive enough off the ball. He seemed to be getting to the point of over-heating while trying to encourage them to play faster. 

Not having much in the way of team speed is one thing. But to play as though there's an 11-point checklist that needs to be adhered to from snap-to-snap can make a team without much speed play even slower. That appeared to be Brady's contention. 

It didn't get much better. And it wasn't just the rookies who had their share of miscommunication issues with Brady. 

On a play in the third quarter, Brady gave Phillip Dorsett and Julian Edelman a finger-gun signal before the snap. Brady expected Dorsett to run a go down the sideline. Edelman was doubled and tried to run to space vertically. Going away from the double, Brady launched to Dorsett. But Dorsett didn't run a go. The ball landed about 50 feet away from the closest receiver. 

Later in the game, on third down, Mohamed Sanu ran a crossing route just shy of the sticks. He came back toward the football, which Brady typically likes, but he came back enough that he marked short of the first down. On the next play, fourth and one, Brady threw to Sanu again on a crosser. This time he was drilled by linebacker Zach Cunningham on what likely should've been called pass interference and had Brady's pass deflect off his hands. 

Neither play was an egregious mistake. But neither play resulted in a first down. Six plays later, the Texans were in the end zone to make the score 21-3.

Brady had his share of wayward throws. He was nearly picked on his team's second drive of the third quarter. He was nearly picked in the end zone on a sprint-out pass while targeting Meyers. He threw once into coverage and was picked but had it back because of a penalty. Brady missed Meyers over the middle for a good gain with under a minute left in the first half on a drive that resulted in a punt.

He wasn't perfect. But Sunday night's game against the Texans — who doubled Edelman throughout the game and took James White away with a defensive back in coverage — seemed to highlight the fact that Brady simply does not feel like the receivers he's playing with consistently know where to be and when. In an offense where timing and communication are the backbone, that's an issue. 

Apparently there's still plenty for the Patriots to correct as they (to steal a phrase from Brady's heated sideline address) grind this . . . sucker . . . out. Thirteen weeks in.

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Patriots legend Tedy Bruschi perfectly sums up dilemma facing players in CBA vote

Patriots legend Tedy Bruschi perfectly sums up dilemma facing players in CBA vote

The NFL made headlines Wednesday when it was reported that a proposed collective bargaining agreement would alter the league's playoff format by adding a seventh qualifying team in each conference.

The extra playoff spot wasn't the only interesting change that could be adopted, though. In the proposal is a 17-game regular season and a three-game preseason. The current format, of course, has a 16-game regular season and four preseason games.

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It's not a really tough decision for the owners. But the players? That's a different story.

Former Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi, who's now an NFL analyst on ESPN, perfectly summed up the dilemma facing the players with this 17-game season vote.

It's going to be a very interesting vote for the players.

The average career for an NFL player is less than three years, per CNBC, making a 17th game check pretty valuable. The older players, many of whom have already made enough money to live comfortably for the rest of their lives, probably prefer to stick with the 16-game schedule because another game is another chance of suffering a career-ending injury. Injuries obviously are hard for older players to recover from.

Difficult votes that split the older and younger players of a union is nothing new, but it will be fascinating to see which way the NFL Players Association goes when it comes to how many regular season games will be played in the new CBA.

Curran: Where things stand for Brady, Pats a month from free agency

Rob Ninkovich warns of Patriots domino effect if Tom Brady leaves in free agency

Rob Ninkovich warns of Patriots domino effect if Tom Brady leaves in free agency

The New England Patriots will be worse off in 2020 if Tom Brady leaves in free agency. That much is obvious.

But the ripple effects of Brady's departure may be felt for years to come.

The 42-year-old quarterback is one of several key Patriots players who will become free agents on March 18, including safety Devin McCourty and linebackers Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins.

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If Brady returns for a 21st season, it's possible at least one member of that defensive trio sticks around for another Super Bowl run.

If Brady signs elsewhere? Former Patriots defensive standout Rob Ninkovich believes the dominos could fall quickly in New England.

"If Tom doesn’t come back, I don’t know if those guys are going to want to stick around," Ninkovich told the Boston Herald's Karen Guregian on Wednesday. "Because what’s the outlook for the team? Is it a rebuilding phase? What happens moving forward?"

Ninkovich also noted head coach Bill Belichick may have a harder time executing the team-building model he's had so much success with over the years, as free agents would be less likely to take a pay cut to come to New England.

“That would be a hard sell. In years past, the Patriots have been able to get guys at a bargain, because it’s an older veteran, a guy who’s looking for a Super Bowl, for a playoff run," Ninkovich explained.

“They’re approached by the Patriots, who say, ‘Look, we’re not going to guarantee the biggest contract, but we’re going to give you an opportunity to play in the playoffs and Super Bowl if you’re interested. Ninety-nine percent of the guys are ‘yeah, I want some validation for my football career.' "

But would free agents be confident that Brady's replacement -- 23-year-old Jarrett Stidham, perhaps -- could keep the Patriots in Super Bowl contention? Ninkovich isn't so sure.

"It won’t be easy without Tom. It’ll definitely be a struggle," he said.

As our Patriots Insider Phil Perry recently pointed out, time is also working against Belichick as he (and the Patriots' other pending free agents) awaits Brady's free-agent decision.

On that front, Ninkovich believes there's a real chance the six-time Super Bowl champion signs elsewhere in March.

"My gut is telling me Tom is motivated to prove a lot of people wrong," Ninkovich added. " ... So it wouldn’t surprise me if he puts up the deuces to everybody, and tries to motivate himself to prove people wrong."

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