Hannable: Making sense of Tom Brady’s below average play last few weeks

Ryan Hannable
December 13, 2017 - 11:26 pm

Jasen Vinlove/USA Today Sports

FOXBORO — A lot has been made of Tom Brady’s play the last few weeks, especially after Monday night’s 27-20 loss to the Dolphins.

It was Brady’s worst game in quite some time, as he finished 24-for-43 with 233 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions for a quarterback rating of 59.5. It was his lowest QB rating since 2013 and also his first multi-interception game since 2015. 

More than any other quarterback in the league, a subpar performance means mass hysteria ensues. 

The takes were endless the day following the game with some saying this is the start of the downfall for the 40-year-old, while others said the quarterback is hurt having missed the last three Wednesday practices with an Achilles injury and it is starting to impact his performance.

Brady has had two of his four lowest quarterback ratings this season in the last two games as besides his 59.5 rating against the Dolphins, he had a 82.4 rating against the Bills. (Brady had a 70 rating in Week 1 against Kansas City and a 80.7 rating against the Jets in Week 6.)

So, what is the real reason for Brady’s recent struggles?

No, his injuries are not impacting his play all that much, if at all, and no, he’s not falling off the cliff.

A deep dive into the past few games shows maybe the reason for Brady’s play is being unfamiliar with what he’s seeing on the other side of the ball. Over the years we’ve heard how Brady has seen almost every defense imaginable and therefore has the answers to the test before the play even begins. 

“I have the answers to the test now,” Brady said to MMQB’s Peter King a few weeks after Super Bowl LI. “You can’t surprise me on defense. I’ve seen it all. I’ve processed 261 games, I’ve played them all. It’s an incredibly hard sport, but because the processes are right and are in place, for anyone with experience in their job, it’s not as hard as it used to be. There was a time when quarterbacking was really hard for me because you didn’t know what to do. Now I really know what to do.”

Except that hasn’t been the case in the last two games.

Brady admitted as much Monday morning on Kirk & Callahan when speaking about the Dolphins game.

“I give Miami a lot of credit. I thought they played really well,” Brady said. “I thought they did some things well defensively that maybe were a tiny bit new that threw off some of my reads and so forth. I thought they made some really good plays on the ball. They played really well.”

Miami defensive coordinator Matt Burke emptied his playbook for the Patriots and clearly it worked as it threw Brady off his game.

Brady’s issues against the Bills can also be traced to the unfamiliarity as well, since this was the first time the Patriots played the Bills this year and also a lot has changed with Buffalo from years past. First, they have a new coach in Sean McDermott and secondly, their secondary is almost entirely different from years past. It was a whole new scheme, one Brady likely hadn’t seen, and therefore he wasn’t as sharp as in most other games this year.

As for this week against the Steelers, unfamiliarity will not be an issue. 

The Steelers generally play zone and Brady tears it apart.

In 10 games against Pittsburgh since 2007, Brady is completing 72 percent of his passes for 2,273 yards with 22 touchdowns and no interceptions for a quarterback rating of 127.5. Even though the Steelers talked all offseason about playing more man defense, it hasn’t been shown much on tape in recent games.

Based on this, Brady’s play should not be an issue this week and everyone’s concerns will likely subside after the game, even though there never should have been any concerns to begin with.

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