New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady started the 2017 season the way he starts most every season: with complete dominance. Through 10 games, Brady destroyed every defense he faced, leading the Patriots to a 10-2 record while being the MVP frontrunner. However, Brady suffered a relative skid to end his season, and it’s caused some panic entering the playoffs. Brady’s production did dip, but no Patriots fan should worry about Tom Brady’s late season skid.
The Reason For Concern
Brady posted a 6:5 TD-INT ratio over the final six games of the regular season and rarely look like the quarterback fans are used to seeing. For the second time in his career, and the first time since 2002, Brady threw an interception in five straight games. Two main factors can be attributed to this dip in production: his Achilles injury and losing the majority of his receivers.
The Achilles injury should sort itself out. Both Brady and Belichick have insisted that the Achilles was not considered a serious injury. Brady got into a routine of missing a practice or two a week, but he would always play on Sunday. Having the bye week is crucial, as that extra week of rest will likely cure the Achilles problem once and for all.
The receiver problem is a different issue, but still shouldn’t be one to worry about. While Brady normally finishes his season on a high note, a late season skid isn’t unheard of. Look at Brady’s 2014 season as an example.
2014: A Similar Situation
After a slow start to the 2014 season, Brady went on an absolute tear. From October to December, Brady went on an unparalleled eight-week run where he posted a 24:4 touchdown to interception ratio. The Patriots went 7-1 over that timeframe, with the lone loss coming against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers in Green Bay. Brady was the best quarterback in football, and was right in the midst of the MVP race.
Then December happened. Brady wasn’t bad by any means, but he didn’t impress in the last three meaningful games of the season (New England clinched homefield advantage in Week 16, and Brady only played half of Week 17). Brady ended his season throwing five touchdowns and three interceptions over the final three games while his passer rating never exceeded 95. Again, not bad, but not great.
The 2014 Problems and Solutions
Most of this was due to troubles with the supporting cast. The running back depth chart was completely decimated, and then-Steelers castoff LeGarrette Blount was still getting acclimated to his New England return. The team was weak at outside receiver, as the best option was Brandon LaFell. Danny Amendola was unreliable in the regular season, only catching 27 passes for 200 yards all season.
Brady struggled with only Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski as reliable targets. This problem compounded itself when Edelman missed the final two games of the season with a concussion. The Patriots offense faltered against a bad Jets team, and there were worries if this offense could perform in the postseason.
Despite the worry, Brady dominated that postseason. With Edelman’s return, Brady put together arguably the best postseason run of his storied career. In three games, he threw 10 touchdown against four interceptions en route to winning his fourth Super Bowl. In the process, he pulled off what was then the greatest Super Bowl comeback of all time. Trailing the Seattle Seahawks 24-14, Brady put up 14 points in the fourth quarter against a defense that averaged 15 a game in the regular season. Brady’s heorics get overshadowed by Malcolm Butler’s interception and Brady’s even more impressive comeback against Atlanta, but it was still one of the most impressive performances in history.
What to Expect This Year
Expect more of the same this postseason. While Edelman won’t be coming back, there should be several key players returning for the stretch run. Wide receiver Chris Hogan is expected to return after missing seven of the past eight games. Fellow receiver Malcolm Mitchell has been practicing for the first time all season, and could return against the Tennessee Titans. If these two can return, Brady will have more help at the receiver position than he had all season. Along with those two, running backs Rex Burkhead and James White should be able to return. With Burkhead paired alongside Dion Lewis, this could be the best Patriot rushing attack since Corey Dillon’s great 2004 season. White isn’t much of a threat running the ball, but there aren’t many better receiving backs in the NFL.
Brady’s had two weeks to rest his Achilles and get healthy. He will have more offensive weapons to work with than he has all season long. The 40-year old quarterback is as good as he’s ever been, and all the stars appear to be aligning for Brady to show the NFL that 40 is the new 25.
Main Photo:Embed from Getty Images
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