Tom Brady, New England Patriots
Tom Brady on Darrelle Revis
"@Patriots: The birthday boy himself heading to the buses."
There’s no secret that the New England Patriots defense hasn’t been stellar in recent years.
They’ve certainly had their moments - 2011’s squad with a healthy Andre Carter and Mark Anderson generating the kind of pass rush the Pats have lacked since the late-2000’s. And in 2012/2013, Aqib Talib gave them their first shutdown man-to-man corner since Ty Law.
But the sum of those parts never quite added up to a top-10 defensive unit, usually due in part to injuries. They flash at times, but most often the Patriots won in spite of their defense, not because of them.
I’ve often joked that Tom Brady and the offense must just march up and down the field on the Patriots defense in practice. Especially when you consider the things the Pats defense wasn’t good at - defending the middle of the field, stopping tight ends and running backs - are very much the strengths of the Pats offense in recent years.
But this year the reports out of camp are that the defense is challenging Brady in a way not seen in a long time in Foxboro.
There’s been plenty of speculation of what the acquisitions of Brandon Browner and Darrelle Revis, along with the maturation of various other young pieces like Chandler Jones, Devin McCourty and Dont’a Hightower, will mean for the Pats’ competition. But their biggest impact might be for the Patriots offense.
We wrote about it earlier this week and there’s little debate that Brady hasn’t quite had his best outings against the better defenses in the playoffs the last few years.
Could it be that the Patriots defense just hasn’t been able to provide enough of a challenge lately to force Brady to the absolute top of his game?
He certainly was pushed by the veteran dynasty defense in the early-2000’s, so perhaps this could result in more performances like we saw out of Brady in 2004’s AFC Championship, when he cut through a very tough Steelers defense in Pittsburgh like warm butter.
It might be a stretch, but early in camp it’s apparent that Brady hasn’t seen this kind of consistent challenge in practice day after day in a long time.
Perhaps this is just what Brady and the Pats need to get over the hump against the best defenses.
Kind of a poor throw by Brady, he looked off his intended receiver but Revis read it all the way. Brady was off balance and partially affected by Wilfork getting some late disruption past Wendell.
It’s still sinking in the kind of player Revis is and that I will actually be able to root for him. I always enjoyed watching his tape even when he was on the Jets (gasp!). He’s special and no matter how long he’s in New England it will be fun.
Been in a couple twitter conversations about this lately so let’s dive in.
First, it’s important to note that in the playoffs you’re playing against the best teams and often the best defenses. So we have to adjust our expectations and I think the important question to ask is “Did Brady give his team a chance to win?”
Let’s remember he threw exactly ONE touchdown in 2001’s march to the Super Bowl in three games.
Brady was clearly not at his best in the 2011 and 2012 playoff games against Baltimore. But again, let’s remember we’re talking about arguably the best defense in the NFL, or at least the AFC, during that time.
So do we blame Brady for not torching them? He was still 1-1 in those two games and really, the 2012 was a total Patriots beatdown in the second half. The defense couldn’t get off the field so it’s hard to pin it all on Brady in that one.
Similarly in the two Super Bowl losses, Brady led his offense down the field to take a late lead (against defenses that were playing very well I might add) only it was the lack of that final defensive stop that lost the championship for him.
Can we really say Brady was in large part responsible for any of the playoff losses? Maybe he wasn’t at his best, but we never saw critical turnovers or a complete meltdown in any of them by Brady.
And really let’s be honest, the Patriots defense in recent years hasn’t exactly been on fire in the playoff losses either. In their last four playoff exits the defense has forced ZERO turnovers. That leaves little margin for error on offense, especially when you consider how much this team thrives on forcing turnovers.
So in those playoff losses Brady hasn’t gotten much help either.
Ultimately this is a team game, so it’s hard single out one player, even the quarterback, and assign a percentage of the blame. There are a number of factors that go in to evaluating an individual performance.
It’s not so easy to say Brady didn’t shred team X in the playoffs like he often shreds teams in the regular season so it’s his fault they didn’t win.
He’s always prepared, he doesn’t make critical mistakes and he will fight down to the end. I’ll take Brady in a playoff game any day. And if he gets the right support from the rest of his team, he’s just about unbeatable.