The New England Patriots are at the top of the AFC with a 9-1 record. The Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas has them as the favorites to win the Super Bowl. Their defense is historically good. The game charters at Pro Football Focus rank New England’s special teams as the second best of 2019.
The offense, however, has been underwhelming. The Patriots are averaging just two points per drive in 2019, the fifth lowest rate for the franchise since coach Bill Belichick took over in 2000. They’re struggling in the red zone (49%, ranking 25th) and in goal-to-go situations (65%, 21st).
“The strength of our team is our defense and our special teams,” quarterback Tom Brady told “The Greg Hill Show” Monday morning on WEEI. “On offense we just have to take advantage when we get opportunities and understand where our strengths lie and try and play to them – not giving any short fields, not turning the ball over and try and take advantage when we get into the red area to score touchdowns. That is kind of where our offense is. That is kind of where our team is.”
Brady, remarkably, appears to be at the heart of the team’s offensive futility. The future Hall of Famer completed 26 of 47 passes for 216 yards and no touchdowns on Sunday, the first time in Brady’s 20-year career that he played an entire game and didn’t lead the team in touchdown passes, according to ESPN’s Stats & Information. Wide receiver Julian Edelman threw New England’s only touchdown pass, a 15-yarder to Phillip Dorsett in the third quarter. Brady also had 14 incompletions in the first half against Philadelphia, a career high.
You could wave this off as a one-game clunker, but Brady, who turned 42 in August, has been trending down for a few seasons. His completion rate is on a three-year decline, from close to a career high in 2016 (67%) to one of the lowest marks of his career in 2019 (64%). His touchdown rate this season (3.5%), if it doesn’t improve, also would be a career low. Those two components, in turn, are fueling a drastic decline in Brady’s passer rating, adjusted net yards per pass and Total Quarterback Rating, three passing metrics that are best correlated with team wins.
It’s easy to attribute Brady’s 2019 performance to the loss of five-time Pro Bowl tight end Rob Gronkowski (retired), the failed Josh Gordon and Antonio Brown experiments and an overall lack of quality receiving options. However, New England’s receivers are hauling in an average rate of catchable throws (77%), and passes to Edelman, Brady’s most targeted player, are producing 7.2 yards per attempt, the third-highest rate between them since they became teammates in 2009. Passes from Brady to Edelman are also producing 3.5 more points than expected per 100 snaps after taking into account the down, distance and field position of each throw, per data from TruMedia. That’s a far cry from years past but still good enough to exceed expectations. The same can’t be said for Brady’s overall performance.
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SOURCE: Greenwich Time, Neil Greenberg