Tom Brady Is the Patriots’ Best Receiver Right Now
Tom Brady caught the Patriots’ longest pass of the game Sunday. That’s not how it’s supposed to work.
The Patriots fell to the Philadelphia Eagles 35-28 at Gillette Stadium Sunday afternoon in one of the more bizarre games of the Bill Belichick era. The decision to have safety Nate Ebner dropkick the football after the Patriots’ second touchdown of the contest, a rare Belichick coaching blunder, precipitated the Eagles’ onslaught. Brady’s two costly turnovers made matters worse, but the inability of nearly every Patriots receiver to catch the football in crucial moments turned the game into a dumpster fire.
The highlight for the Patriots’ offense came with 2:59 remaining in the third quarter, when Danny Amendola rolled out to his right and hit a streaking Brady for a 36-yard gain on third down. Yes, you read that sentence correctly. Desperate times call for desperate measures.
— NFL (@NFL) December 6, 2015
Brady just proving to his wife that he can indeed catch the ball himself
— John Legend (@johnlegend) December 6, 2015
The Patriots’ momentum was halted on the next play when Brady chucked the ball into the end zone, and directly into the arms of Eagles safety Byron Maxwell. It was an ugly followup to the pick-six he threw earlier in the quarter.
Brady: “We have to do a better job. … If I turn the ball over twice, I don’t think we’ll have the chance to win many games.” — Ryan Hannable (@RyanHannable) December 7, 2015
It’s worth noting, though, that mistakes from the Patriots’ receiving corps preceded both of Brady’s turnovers. Four plays before Malcolm Jenkins’ pick-six, Amendola dropped a pass deep down the right side of the field that would’ve resulted in a big gain. On the interception to Maxwell, it appeared as if Brandon LaFell quit on the route, or at least didn’t run as far as Brady thought he was going to.
It was an ugly day for LaFell, who’s struggled to get in sync with Brady after missing the first six games of the season with a foot injury. On the last drive of the game, when the Pats had a chance to tie it after the Eagles had fumbled with 1:02 left, LaFell dropped a pass on a slant route when he had room in front of him. It was a performance reminiscent of his three-drop effort against the Jets in Week 6.
LaFell’s miscue wasn’t the only one on the Patriots’ final possession. Amendola let the ball slip through his hands when Brady looked his way on second down and Keyshawn Martin couldn’t hold on to a deep pass down the middle of the field on third down. Three consecutive drops to end the game. It was perfect symbolism for an abysmal afternoon in Foxboro.
Sports are weird.
— Michael Hurley (@michaelFhurley) December 7, 2015
After watching Sunday’s contest, it’s clear Brady misses Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman. Previously, the Patriots were able to mitigate their undermanned offensive line’s impact because Brady was able to release the ball quickly. But now, without his two favorite targets, he’s holding the ball for longer and getting knocked down more often. The Eagles hit Brady 13 times in the game.
It doesn’t help that Gronkowski’s replacement, Scott Chandler, has hands of stone. On Sunday, he dropped a pass on a key 3rd-and-5 late in the second quarter that would’ve moved the chains. One play later, the Eagles blocked a punt and returned it for a touchdown to tie the game.
The only substitute who stepped up for the Patriots Sunday was running back James White, who caught 10 passes for 115 yards and a touchdown out of the backfield. But Brady needs more than one capable set of hands to throw to.
Unless, of course, he can come up with a way to throw to himself.