At 6-2, the New England Patriots sit atop the AFC East and have undergone a first half of the season trying to deal with offensive changes.Quarterback Tom Brady has looked uncomfortable and has visibly shown his frustrations in this not business as usual season.
In the season’s first eight games, Brady only had nine touchdown passes against six interceptions thrown; he has a 55.7 pass completion rate and sits at No. 27 in the league with his 74.9 passer rating. He has two games that had passer ratings of 90-plus but also two that were in the 50s.
Equally gloomy is his No. 30 spot for yards per attempt from his 5.94 yard average–the lowest for his career–and No. 29 for completion percentage. In last week’s 27-17 win over the Miami Dolphins, he was 13 for 22 (69.5 passer rating), 116 yards, one touchdown and one pick. Yep, this was really Brady’s stat line and his fourth straight game that he didn’t complete a minimum of 60 percent of his passes.
A lot of Brady’s poor first half numbers can be attributed to his inexperienced wide receiver stable, a lack of chemistry and changes from other players. But lucky for Brady as he enters this season’s second half, one of his favorite targets, tight end Rob Gronkowksi, has returned and so has wide receiver Danny Amendola
for now. Running back Stevan Ridley and rookie receiver Aaron Dobson have also stepped up and contributed.
In addition to dealing with new players,other challenges contributing to Brady’s weak performance could be attributed to his right throwing hand. It has looked swollen last week in the Dolphins game but Brady has denied this. The question had been posed after last week’s game and Brady responded via the Boston Globe, “It’s perfect. I feel great. For the eighth week of the year, I feel awesome.”
At age 36, Brady should have a few years left in the tank even though he has not looked like himself this season. And truth be told it’s hard to bet against this player. Like most quarterbacks at this high level, they don’t like to lose (see Peyton Manning, Drew Brees).
Sure the Patriots receivers are young; Gronk is still trying to get up to speed after two games and the offensive line has been challenged by blitzes, but it’s still too early to say Brady can’t turn things around.
Looking ahead, this week the Patriots will play the 2-5 Pittsburgh Steelers. This should provide a good opportunity for Brady to begin a change and then in Week 10, the Patriots will have a bye week. This break should give Brady’s hand time to heal as well as Gronkowski and Amendola to get healthier.
But then the schedule becomes more challenging as the Patriots will face the Carolina Panthers on Monday, Nov. 18 and then the Denver Broncos. These games could be true tests.
It’s not impossible for Brady to turn things around but this mountain is a little higher than usual to climb. As for the Patriots, we all know there’s a strong quarterback draft class impatiently waiting in the wings for next season.