The Decline Of The New England Patriots And Tom Brady
For a decade the New England Patriots have been able to ride their high powered offense and the arm of Tom Brady into the playoffs and strike fear in the hearts of all men who have the nerve to wear a football helmet. But it appears that the 2011 season is the one where the chinks in the armor of those dynamic Patriots are being exposed.
More importantly, Tom Brady seems to have lost his mojo.
After losing 24-20 to the New York Giants on Sunday, the Patriots sit at 5-3 and that game raised a series of questions that may prove to be the demise of one of the NFL’s best franchises in the 2000s. Tom Brady wasn’t Tom Brady yet again has his trademark decision making and ability to takeover games was nowhere near the football field. Yes, he threw for 342 yards and two touchdowns but he only completed 57% of his passes and threw two picks against a team that was dissected by Seattle Seahawks‘ Tavaris Jackson earlier in the season. Once again, the Pats failed to score more than 20 points in their past three games and have dropped two in a row. Even more alarming was the fact that the Patriots were unable to score at all in the first half.
There’s certainly trouble in paradise.
It didn’t seem this way when Brady chucked four TDs and 517 yards against the Miami Dolphins in the first game of the season. But red flags were raised when Brady threw four INTs in a loss to the Buffalo Bills. Most just thought it was a bad game. But his performances against the Cowboys and the Giants have proven this isn’t the same Brady we have come to know. Yes, he’s still one of the elite QBs in the NFL, but he’s currently being leapfrogged by the brilliant play of Aaron Rodgers and doesn’t seem to have “it” like he used to.
The offense as a whole has become entirely too predictable and Brady appears to only trust Wes Welker and Rob Gronkowski. The running game is still suspect, the O-Line struggles to protect Brady and the Patriots have gone from well-oiled machine to an above average offense that features a defense that resembles Swiss cheese.
And oh how that defense is finally being exposed. Before, the defense could survive because Brady and co. could just go out and outscore you every game. Now? They are prone to giving up at least two TDs a game and those issues were magnified when they were unable to bottle up Eli Manning‘s masterful 80-yard drive to seal the deal. The long stretches of excellence on offense has turned to spotty showings that force the defense to step up and have to make big plays. They have proved that they are totally incapable of masking any errors on the offensive side of the ball. Not to mention their special teams unit has been stinking up the field.
It’s easy to see that teams have figured out Brady and the fact that he’s terribly uncomfortable when the pressure appears to be coming. If you send the defense after Brady, #12 will become a bit rattled and zone in on Welker and Gronkowski to catch key passes. Chad Ochocinco is completely out of sync and Deion Branch is terribly inconsistent. Aaron Hernandez is a bright spot but Brady has yet to put his full trust in him as of yet. The problems on both sides of the ball are raising a ton of concern in New England and rightfully so.
A record of 5-3 is good for a bunch of teams in the NFL. Just not the New England Patriots.
How many people thought the Cincinnati Bengals would have a better record than the Patriots at the beginning of the season? How many people thought that the 49ers would be outscoring teams at a better clip than the Patriots (+88 to +38)? How many people thought that the Pats would giveaway just as much as they have taken away (14 to 14)?
Sitting atop the AFC East in a three-way tie with the Jets and the Bills after eight games makes you wonder if this is the season when the wheels begin coming off the train. Unless the Pats right this ship soon, they will go from Super Bowl contender to struggling for a wild card berth by the time the season ends.