Why Tom Brady isn’t standing pat in the pocket
|12.08.11 at 12:53 pm ET|
FOXBORO — You don’t have to be an NFL scout to notice something very significant about Tom Brady this year.
He is getting rid of the ball faster and faster with every passing game.
There are a number of reasons for this.
The Patriots offensive line has been in flux all season, with injuries to Dan Koppen, Dan Connolly, Sebastian Vollmer and Ryan Wendell, two rookies in Nate Solder and Marcus Cannon and opponents ganging up on Logan Mankins with occasional success.
Then, there’s the lack of a deep true deep threat downfield. With Wes Welker (team-leading 93 catches) and Deion Branch (48) getting open underneath, there has been little reason or motivation for Brady to look deep that often. The struggles of Chad Ochocinco and Taylor Price (now with the Jaguars) haven’t helped either, as both haven’t been able to consistently strike fear into opposing secondaries.
Tight end Rob Gronkowski is having a Hall of Fame and NFL record-setting season for the position, with 65 catches and 13 receiving touchdowns already.
Does Gronkowski get into his routes more quickly than a wide receiver does? Does that have anything to do with being able to get rid of the ball quickly? Let Professor Brady answer.
“Well, there’s more versatility in the inside part of the field because they can go in any direction,” Brady said. “If you’re an outside receiver and you’re split outside the numbers, there’re not many places you can go, so it usually takes a little more time to get in your route. When you’re an inside receiver, you have every direction available. So that’s why those guys typically have more catches probably for less yards because they have to deal with more people inside, but they also can catch the ball quick, short, intermediate, as well as down the field. So, there is just more route versatility within what they’re doing.”
And last but not least, the Patriots have faced several teams like the Cowboys, Steelers and Giants with classic “bookend” pash-rushers. And that trend continues this weekend, with a twist, as the Patriots face the Redskins trio of Adam Carriker, Stephen Bowen and linebacker Brian Orakpo.
“When you play good pass rushers, you’ve got to understand that at some point, they’re going to be there,” said Brady, who has completed exactly two-thirds of his pass attempts this season, connecting for 30 TDs and only 10 picks. “So, you just don’t have all the time to sit around and make decisions, so you just try to get the ball out. A lot of it comes down to coordinating the routes with the protection and then ultimately getting the ball out fast enough. If you know that these guys are really aggressive pass rushers, than you have to throw the ball quick. You have to screen them, you have to trap, you have to draw, you have to do all the things it really takes to keep them off balance as well. But if you just let certain guys tee off, play from behind all day, it’s going to be a long, hard day.”
Brady has had his fair share of those rough days this season, namely against the Steelers and Giants in losses and even the Cowboys in a win. The pass rush got to Brady and either hit or hurried him. And sometimes, there’s little the receivers can do, realizing that Brady is pretty much on his own.
“I think it’s more the play-calling and Tom having the luxury to change plays to make sure he puts us in a better play if he doesn’t think it’s a good one,” Branch said. “Every play has a route set up for him to do certain things with so if the defense gives us what we see, we’ll take it.
“The thing is I have to do my job within the play call, the scheme of the offense. If I have a deep route, and he’s throwing a “hot route” then there’s nothing I can do about it. I think my job is very important, as well. If I have to remove a guy from over Wes’ head, then I’ve got to do that.”
Translation: If Branch can run a route behind Welker, it takes some coverage off No. 83 and gives Brady a better chance to fit the ball in.
Further translation: As long as Brady is in charge, the receivers can feel free to do their job knowing Brady will do his.