The Patriots Are Asking Tom Brady to Do More than Ever Before

And it might doom them.

Tom Brady

Photo via AP

Throughout the entirety of his career, Tom Brady has always lifted the Patriots up when they’ve needed him most. But he may be at his breaking point.

This didn’t happen instantaneously, but rather over the course of several weeks. First, running back Dion Lewis went down with a season-ending knee injury in Week 9. Then, Julian Edelman broke his foot against the Giants seven days later. But the biggest blow came two weeks ago, when Rob Gronkowski sprained his knee in Denver after getting hit by safety Darian Stewart. Despite being listed as week-to-week, Gronkowski is expected to miss his second straight contest Sunday when the Patriots take on the Texans.

Brady is no stranger to making due with less—he’s been to two AFC Championship Games with the likes of Reche Caldwell and Austin Collie as the stars of his receiving corps. But at some point, even TB12 needs a little help.

This season, the Patriots have passed on 65.97 percent of their plays. That’s the highest mark of Brady’s career and third-highest in football this season, less than one percentage point behind the Miami Dolphins and Detroit Lions, who have to throw because they’re almost always trailing. Through 13 weeks, Brady has attempted more passes than any other QB in the league.

In today’s NFL, you win by throwing the football. But there still has to be some semblance of balance. Over the last 10 years, the 2011 Giants are the only Super Bowl winner who have passed more than 60 percent of the time, and they barely cleared the threshold at 60.18 percent. The Patriots have thrown the ball an average of 52.92 percent of the time in their four championship seasons with Brady at the helm.

With LeGarrette Blount, James White and Brandon Bolden in the backfield, it’s understandable that Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels want to put the ball in Brady’s hands as much as possible. But in order to preserve their 38-year-old quarterback, the Patriots should think about running the ball a little more often.

Over the last four weeks, Brady has been hit 37 times. He’s already been sacked 29 times this season, which is eight more times than he was brought down all of last year.

The Patriots have been playing without starting left tackle Nate Solder, who tore his biceps in mid-October. Through the first half of the season, Brady was able to mitigate the impact of a depleted offensive line because of how quickly he released the football. As Ryan Hannable of notes, Brady averaged two seconds from snap-to-throw through the first eight games. But since then, he’s been holding onto the ball for 2.42 seconds, probably because members of his diminished receiving corps can’t get open quickly.

That doesn’t bode well for Sunday night’s matchup against the Texans, considering Houston has the third-best pass defense in the NFL. J.J. Watt, the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, leads the league with 13.5 sacks, as well.

Ever since Edelman went down, Brady has only been able to complete 52.6 percent of his passes. He’s been a victim of more drops than any other QB in the league, including several in Sunday’s loss to the Eagles.

This is supposed to be Brady’s revenge tour, but he needs a supporting cast. Right now, he’s naked out there.