It seemed a bit curious following the Patriots’ 23-16 victory over the Jaguars last Sunday that Tom Brady decided to call out his offensive teammates both behind closed doors and during his postgame press conference.
After all, he threw two interceptions and completed just 58.5 percent of his passes. What kind of player chews out his teammates after appearing to have his own struggles?
One who played very well while getting knocked around the entire game, that’s what kind.
Brady, Wes Welker, Stevan Ridley, Danny Woodhead, and Deion Branch came to play against the Jaguars. Notice that those are four battled-tested veterans and a second-year back (Ridley) trying to prove himself after some recent fumbles.
Everyone else on offense — especially the line — submitted a performance that was just as bad as the defense’s in the 37-31 victory over the Bills Nov. 11.
“Execution was terrible,” Brady said Sunday.
That it was.
It’s not as though Brady was perfect, however.
The first interception was all on Brady, though Nate Solder gave up a little pressure to Jaguars end Jason Babin (a recurring theme), and as a result, Brady never got his feet set.
When Brady released the ball, the single high, deep safety, Chris Prosinski, was still between the hashmarks. Had Brady led Ridley with a little more heat, that’s a 67-yard touchdown pass on a wheel route.
Near the end of the next drive, Brady had to be kicking himself that he threw a corner route incomplete to Aaron Hernandez when Welker was open against man coverage for a touchdown.
From that point on, Brady was nearly flawless even as he was pressured on a season-high 47.8 percent of his 46 dropbacks. He was hit 13 times (the coaches’ film revealed one we missed Sunday), four more than the previous high set three times since the start of the 2010 season.
And to think the Jaguars blitzed on 11 percent of Brady’s throws.
One play typified the day. Trailing, 13-3, with 6:06 left in the first half and on third and 8 at the Jacksonville 25-yard line, Brady stood firm in the pocket as the Jaguars sent two additional rushers. Left guard Logan Mankins was easily beaten by tackle C.J. Mosley, and linebacker Russell Allen came free on his blitz. Brady hung in, delivered a perfect pass to Hernandez for 14 yards, then was plastered by the 300-pound Mosley, who had a full head of steam.
It was Brady’s best pass of the day. One problem: Hernandez had a false start. After the 5-yard penalty, another free blitzer forced Brady to scramble, and his arm was hit by end Jeremy Mincey as he delivered an incomplete pass.
The overall performance was not even close to good enough for late December.
Also alarming this late in the season was the lack of cohesion between Brady and receiver Brandon Lloyd in the first half.
On a third-and-goal pass from the 7, Brady and Lloyd obviously read it differently, and the quarterback was probably right. If Lloyd cuts off the cornerback and runs to the front pylon — as Brady saw it — the percentage is high that it’s a touchdown; the cornerback has no room to make a play. Throwing to the back pylon where Lloyd ran, the percentage is very low because the cornerback had undercut the route and the throw would have to be perfect over the top.
Similar play on the interception on the next series. It’s the usual shot play the Patriots run a variety of ways out of play-action on a stretch run. Not only was there a safety playing the post (who shades to Welker, who correctly crosses), but the cornerback is also playing over the top. That usually calls for the receiver to cross, not stay on the post as Lloyd did.
Lloyd made matters worse by not getting between the ball and the defender, though that’s a tough adjustment. Hernandez was wide open underneath, but if Lloyd makes the correct read, it should be an easy big play.
With 7:50 left in the second quarter, Brady threw late and behind Lloyd, which is Brady’s fault. The play was there; it was a good route. But you have to wonder if those earlier plays and not being on the same page contributed to Brady throwing late.
Those are the type of plays the Patriots can’t afford in the postseason. Lloyd and Brady should be beyond that.
The good news is that after the first half, in which Lloyd caught just one of the five passes Brady threw at him, the pair was 5 for 7 (and one incompletion came when Lloyd had the ball knocked away as he went to the ground).
Brady targeted Lloyd on his first four throws of the second half. It was almost as if Brady said to Lloyd at halftime, “I’m force feeding you to start the second half because we need to get this fixed now, or it’s never going to happen in the postseason.”Continued...