Tom Brady Left Miami with a Limp

Dun dun dun!

Image via AP

Image via AP

For the bulk of Sunday’s tilt against the Miami Dolphins, the Patriots were uncharacteristically conservative on offense. But after seeing Tom Brady lying on the turf in pain the few times they did attempt to move the ball down the field, it’s easy to see why.

The Dolphins defeated the Patriots 20-10 in Miami to hand New England its fourth loss over the last six weeks. The Patriots are the first team in the merger era to finish a season 2-4 after starting 10-0.

Though the Patriots would’ve secured the No. 1 seed in the AFC with a win Sunday, it seems as if Bill Belichick valued protecting his stars more than a potential victory. This apparent mindset explains why Brady threw a career-low five passes in the first half and was pulled with nearly two minutes left in regulation while the game was still in reach.

With starting left tackle Sebastian Vollmer out of the lineup due to an ankle injury, the banged up Patriots O-line was even more depleted than usual. Instead of standing in a collapsing pocket and waiting for hobbled or incapable receivers to get open, Brady often opted to hand the ball off. And when he didn’t, he probably regretted the decision more times than not.

On a 3rd-and-6 with 8:25 remaining in the second quarter, Brady misfired on a short pass to Danny Amendola. Dolphins defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh—one of the most vicious and dirtiest players in game—struck Brady in the ankle immediately after he had released the football.

But that hit from Suh wasn’t the only punishment Brady took Sunday. In the third quarter, Dolphins linebacker Olivier Vernon was flagged for roughing the passer after he knocked Brady to the ground for no apparent reason.

Brady wasn’t sacked until the fourth quarter—when the Dolphins brought him down twice in the span of three plays—but the damage was already done. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports Brady has an ankle sprain, which probably explains why he couldn’t leave his postgame press conference without leaning onto the wall for support.

With two weeks until the Patriots’ first playoff game, Brady should have plenty of time to heal. But given the porous state of the offensive line and uncertainty surrounding the health of the receiving corps, Brady may be on his back quite a bit more during January.

The Patriots can afford to be conservative in a relatively meaningless regular-season finale against the hapless Dolphins. But once the playoffs begin, Brady will have to throw whether his offensive line can protect him or not.