Let’s do a blind quarterback resume.
Over the last seven games, this quarterback has completed 184-of-296 passes for 1,841 yards, seven touchdowns and five interceptions. That is an 80.6 passer rating. Discount a 348-yard, three-touchdown game against a horrible Washington Redskins team and those stats get even worse.
We’ve done this with Tom Brady before. Once he hit his late 30s, every average game was a sign he was hitting the wall. Once he hit his 40s, every bad series seemed to start the “Brady is finished” discussion on social media. And all Brady does is keep making Super Bowls.
The Patriots could win another Super Bowl. But it might look more like the 2015 Denver Broncos than a vintage Patriots championship season.
In 2015, the Broncos rode their defense hard to a title. Peyton Manning fell apart physically that season. Denver won anyway. Brady isn’t struggling nearly as bad as Manning did his final season, but for the second straight season his numbers are down. The Patriots’ best pass on Sunday came from receiver Julian Edelman on a trick play.
Brady was 26-of-47 for 216 yards and no touchdowns in the win over the Eagles. It’s not like Brady has just been hyper efficient and his attempts are way down. Since Week 3, he is averaging 42.3 attempts per game. He’s just heading up a limited offense.
And Brady was not happy after Sunday’s game. Brady is never too talkative, but always polite. His answers were short on Sunday after the game, despite the win. He didn’t even joke around about Edelman’s passing ability. Here’s the transcript from Eagles public relations, via Tom Curran of NBC Sports Boston:
Q: On struggles in the red zone:
Brady: "Yeah, yeah. I don't have anymore. I don't know."
Q: On whether there is a way to remedy it or if it's just about practicing and execution:
Brady: "Yeah, I think that's right. Practice and execution."
Q: On the offense at this point of the year:
Brady: "Up and down. That's what it looks like to me. We could probably do everything better."
Q: On how he would describe their defense:
Brady: "They are doing a great job. Keeping us in every game."
Q: On whether he is discouraged:
Brady: "Well, we just played for three hours. So I think everyone is a little tired."
Q: On battling and games like this late in the season:
Brady: "Yeah, it's good to win. It's good to win. Go on the road and win is always tough. They all count the same. But anytime you go on the road and beat a good team is a good feeling."
Q: On whether he is concerned about the offense or if it'll work its way out:
Brady: "I don't think it matters what I think, it matters what we do."
Q: On how much WR Julian Edelman reminds him of his [Edelman's] passer rating:
Brady: "Not much. It was a good throw. So thank you guys."
By not saying much, Brady said a lot.
The Patriots’ offense isn’t inept, but it’s not elite either. And they can win with defense. For all the talk about how few good offenses they have faced, the Patriots have made Carson Wentz and Ben Roethlisberger look pretty bad this season. You can’t discount every strong performance just to fit a narrative. This Patriots defense is fantastic. In a passing league, nobody is better at stopping the pass.
New England is a Super Bowl favorite. Maybe they’ll only need Brady to make a handful of plays in the playoffs. That was the 2015 Broncos’ formula. It can work. And Brady is still capable of making plays when necessary. He’s not a liability.
But it’s worth wondering how much of an asset he still is.
The Patriots lost Rob Gronkowski to retirement and didn’t really replace him. They signed Antonio Brown and he lasted all of one game before he worked his way out of town. The Patriots were expecting Josh Gordon to work out, and he didn’t. First-round pick N’Keal Harry missed the first half of the season due to injury. The Patriots passing offense is average, and it’s not all Brady’s fault.
But Brady doesn’t look like MVP Brady anymore either. That’s natural. Anything he does this season is historic; there is literally no positive history for any other 42-year-old quarterback. Only one quarterback before Brady started more than one game in a season at age 42 or beyond: Vinny Testaverde for the 2007 Panthers. Testaverde had a 65.8 passer rating. Even with a dip, Brady is without any doubt the greatest 42-year-old quarterback ever. But we’re reminded at times that he’s 42.
Earlier this week, Brady’s trainer Alex Guerrero said Brady could play until he’s 46 or 47. Maybe that happens. Brady has shattered all expectations already. But one of these years, it will end. Perhaps we’re seeing some signs of that already.
HOT: Bears kicking situation remains bad
The Chicago Bears didn’t really invest in a kicker this offseason. They figured they’d sign a bunch of them and one would emerge.
Eddy Pineiro looked like the answer early on. Remember that game-winning kick at Denver? It seems like a hundred years ago. Pineiro missed two field goals in a close game on Sunday night and the Bears lost 17-7. The Bears could have tried a 49-yard field goal in the first quarter, after Pineiro had already missed once, but decided to go for it on fourth-and-9 instead. They didn’t get it.
You are in a bad way at kicker if you’d rather go for it on fourth-and-9 than try a 49-yard field goal, but Bears coach Matt Nagy said he isn’t considering replacing Pineiro. He just wants some made kicks.
‘‘Well, you want to see field goals made,’’ Nagy said, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. ‘‘We all want to see that. He knows that. You’re in a game like this, and it’s a defensive battle and points are at a premium. You want to be able to make those kicks.’’
And yet, that’s not the Bears’ biggest problem.
HOTTER: Bears quarterback situation is worse
Let’s say we believe Matt Nagy when he says Mitchell Trubisky’s performance had nothing to do with him being removed from Sunday’s game. We’ll buy that it was all for a hip injury, though Trubisky was never looked at by Bears trainers on the sideline. It’s still true that Trubisky could have been benched because he was struggling, and nobody would have been surprised.
And that’s the problem. Trubisky is taking major steps back this season. The Bears are quickly playing their way out of the playoff picture. And eventually, the person who built the roster is going to have to answer for it.
HOTTEST: Bears GM Ryan Pace might be in trouble
It’s easy for everyone now to say they knew Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes would be stars. But Pace is the one who ultimately made the decision to pass on them for Mitchell Trubisky in the 2017 draft.
It was a risk at the time to take Trubisky second overall, considering Trubisky started only one season at North Carolina. It looks horrible now that Mahomes and Watson are two of the league’s best quarterbacks and Trubisky is getting non-stop criticism from Bears fans.
Couple that with the Bears’ kicking fiasco and the general malaise of a roster that is nowhere near repeating its 2018 NFC North championship season, and Pace might pay the price. Matt Nagy, the 2018 NFL coach of the year, hasn’t covered himself in glory this season but it’s hard to see the Bears moving on from him. They could try to make moves at the quarterback position in the offseason, but that’s never easy.
And you have to wonder if Pace will be the one to reshape the roster. The Trubisky gamble has put him squarely on the hot seat in Chicago.
EN FUEGO: Carson Wentz shrinks against Patriots
It’s not apples to apples, but it wouldn’t be hard to find someone that would remind you Nick Foles did just fine the last time the Philadelphia Eagles faced off against the New England Patriots.
Wentz faced one of the best passing defenses we have seen in many years on Sunday. And he struggled. Wentz was 20-of-40 for 214 yards. The Eagles got a field goal and touchdown on their first three drives, and nothing after that. The Eagles’ last 10 drives: seven punts, two turnovers on downs and the end of the game.
Alshon Jeffery was inactive, and DeSean Jackson is also gone due to injury. Right tackle Lane Johnson suffered a concussion and the protection broke down without him. The matchup was tough. But Wentz is treated like a franchise quarterback. He is paid like an MVP candidate. Excuses don’t really fly for those players.
Wentz looked indecisive on many plays. He misfired on others. On the Eagles’ best chance to tie the game, they drove to the Patriots’ 26-yard line with less than 90 seconds to go. On first down, Wentz badly missed tight end Zach Ertz, throwing too high. On second down he had nobody open and tried to check down to Nelson Agholor, but threw over his head. On third down Ertz was open again, and Wentz missed badly again, throwing one at Ertz’s feet. Then came a failed heave to Agholor in the end zone on fourth down.
“Those two to Ertz we both definitely want to have back,” Wentz said, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. “We weren’t on the same page a little bit. One I definitely missed. I got to be better.”
Of course, Foles’ legacy still hangs around even though he’s off to Jacksonville. He’s the one who had a phenomenal game in beating the Patriots in Super Bowl LII, when Wentz was out with a torn ACL. When Wentz went down with an injury last season, Foles rallied the Eagles and even helped them win a playoff game.
Wentz’s career, in a strange way, will always be compared to what Foles did in his absence. Wentz could put that all behind him with some big performances against the Eagles’ best opponents. But Philadelphia is 5-5, their offense disappeared against the Patriots, and Wentz has to answer for that.
SCALDING: If the Lions defense stinks, why keep around Matt Patricia?
When you hire a defensive-minded head coach in an offensive-minded NFL world, your defense better not be bad.
The Detroit Lions hired former New England Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia. Their defense is horrible.
Matthew Stafford’s injury doesn’t explain why Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott shredded the defense for 444 yards and three touchdowns. The Lions are allowing 288.6 passing yards per game, third worst in the NFL. They’ve given up 22 passing touchdowns and have just three interceptions. But hey, at least the Lions traded safety Quandre Diggs to “control the locker room.” That’s a Patriots-type move. It would be nice if the Lions had some Patriots-type winning to go along with it.
It’s also not the best look that the Patriots defense became the best in the NFL two seasons after Patricia left. New England was 29th in the NFL in yards allowed the season before the Lions hired Patricia.
Patricia is 9-16-1 as Lions coach. He was hired because of his defensive acumen, and the Lions have one of the worst defenses in the NFL. This season won’t get easier with Stafford out a while. It will be an interesting final six weeks in Detroit.
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