So, where are we?
The 2012 New England Patriots may not be a mess, but they are indeed a confounding unit, a characteristic that makes them no different from the majority of teams in the NFL, but all the more frustrating from a parochial standard.
What was that Sunday in Seattle? From the game plan to the secondary to -- and we say this with specific trepidation in this space -- Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, everything New England dealt to the Seahawks was bad. Simplistic, yes. What more analysis do we really need than that?
I know we dare ever criticize Brady in this town since he's an athlete who has more banked cache than Larry Bird, Pedro Martinez, or Cam Neely, legends who saw their share of targets without collateral damage, but we can just agree that what we saw yesterday wasn't exactly vintage No. 12? Brady threw the ball a career-high 58 times in New England's shocking 24-23 loss to the Seahawks. He completed 36, threw two touchdowns, two interceptions, and was at the center of a controversial intentional grounding call. His passing rating was 79.3, his lowest regular season number since Week 9 against the New York Giants last season.
Is Brady a concern going forward? Let's just say we've yet to hit Halloween, and it's something we can discuss come post-turkey. Of all the major sports, the NFL is so fluid, a week-in-week-out affair that simply doesn't sort out until the final stanza, whether that be December, or the fourth quarter of the Big Game in February.
But it's fair to say that, while he hasn't lost his edge, Brady has lost a step.
He's no longer the closer we remember him as. If anything, Brady more resembles the rival quarterbacks that Patriot fans reveled in denying such greatness, the inability to finish, a characteristic that so defined Brady for much of his Hall of Fame career. That's only natural, and happens to every QB approaching 40.
Clearly the situations are different, an nobody is admitting these are Brady's twilight days, especially with no clear-cut favorite breathing down Brady's neck from the sideline, but 12's performance yesterday spoke some volume about where the Patriots stand. Oh, the secondary stinks, of course, and the Pats had about as much chance running the ball against Seattle as Craig Sager's wardrobe has appearing in GQ, but the quarterback's uneven play is indeed a concern. Sorry, it just is.
There doesn't seem anything physically wrong with Brady, which is all the scarier for a cerebral quarterback. Clock management and Tom Brady used to go hand-in-hand. These days, it's a detriment to his game. It's not like there is a long list of other guys anybody would rather have. But it is afternoons like yesterday that make you cringe as a fan.
Does Brady have that fourth Super Bowl win in him? Or has that window closed? The traits that defined him and made him a three-time champion are difficult to find.
Since 2009, Tom Brady and the Patriots have lost 7 games in which they held the lead in the final 5 minutes.— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) October 15, 2012
Think about just how damning that stat is.
The Patriots are 3-3, and welcome the 3-3 Jets to Foxborough this Sunday. A loss wouldn't be disastrous, but when you're speaking in Patriots terms of excellence, it would be a blow. Yes, the Giants are a perfect example of how regular season malaises don't necessarily lead to sitting on the couch come January, but oh, boy, will heads spin on their axis if there's an "L" in the Jets column.
It's not all Brady's fault. Clearly. But the Pats are where they are, for better or worse at .500, due in large part to an offense that can't seem to understand what it has evolved into. That's Brady's job to understand it.
We have no idea who these Patriots are. And while we may think we know who Tom Brady is, the basic fact is that nobody is who he or she was a decade ago. He's a Hall of Famer, and the best player this franchise has ever seen. But yesterday sparked some level of...well, pause at the very least.
Where are we? Who knows. Let's hope we - they - can figure it out.