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Patriots position-by-position breakdown: Quarterback

02.01.14 at 11:08 am ET
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With the Patriots done for the year, we’€™ve got an end of the year position-by-position breakdown of where the roster stands. We started with special teams, wide receivers, tight ends and running backs. Now, it’s time for the quarterback.

Depth chart: Tom Brady (380-for-628, 61 percent, 4,343 passing yards, 25 TDs, 11 INTs), Ryan Mallett.

Overview: It was perhaps the singular most complicated and complex season for Brady in his professional career, as the New England offense went through multiple looks and different schemes. Wave after wave of different personnel were shuffled through, and some were incredibly important one week and completely irrelevant the next. As a result, it stands to reason why Brady may have had an uneven year — few quarterbacks could have handled the constant rotation, series of injuries and flat-out different looks as well as he did. Because of injuries, week-to-week game-planning, weather conditions and the surprise emergence of some new faces, the Patriots went from an offense seeking an identity to a pass-first group to a run-heavy set, and the quarterback was able to handle it better than most.

There are a lot of reasons why this New England team was able to overachieve on a fairly consistent basis over the course of the year, but if Brady’s not there, there’s no way this team gets as far as it did. There were sizable stretches over the course of the season where he was dominant — November 2013 was one of the finest months of his career — and it’s a tribute to his skills that he was constantly in the MVP discussion despite a relatively subpar statistical year. He had just as many late-game comebacks as he had at any point in his career, and even as he entered his late thirties, he proved his flair for the dramatic was just as keen as it was a decade before.

That being said, there were also large portions of the season where the frustration got to him. No one outside of Gillette Stadium is completely sure how much of the issues were tied to the quarterback, or rookie receivers doing the wrong thing. But stripped of so many of the offensive options he had grown accustomed to over the course of previous year, there were times where he was easily flustered, and other times where he appeared overwhelmed as he was unable to jumpstart an occasionally sluggish New England offense that had a nasty habit of slow starts. And when the team needed him to lift his game to the next level in the AFC title game, he was inconsistent, missing key throws early to Julian Edelman, Matthew Slater and Austin Collie. That led to an early deficit the Patriots were unable to bounce back from.

Brady leaves a mixed legacy when it comes to the 2013 season. Was it his best year statistically? Certainly not, at least when it comes to his own occasionally ridiculous standards. And there were fits of Marinoesque rage that made him appear small and petty. But at the same time, he was truly great for several key stretches, showing an ability to lift his team through key moments. And despite all the personnel changes, he was able to work the controls of an offense that actually outscored the Broncos over the second half of the regular season. In addition, he played a major role in infusing the 2013 team with a level of mental toughness that hadn’t been seen around Foxboro for the better part of the last decade.

In the end, it was a year of personal and professional growth for the quarterback, who — by his own admission — had to take on a new series of responsibilities in 2013, holding weekly film sessions with the rookie receivers and working as a mentor to several members of his own offense. (It’s odd to think that Aaron Dobson was just 10 years old when Brady and the Patriots beat the Rams at Super Bowl XXXVI.) If he and his charges can learn from the hard lessons of 2013 and apply them going forward, buoyed by the return of Rob Gronkowski, there’s no reason to think that the quarterback and the rest of the offense can’t be even more competitive in 2014.

Best moment: Brady’s four-game stretch — from Nov. 3 through Dec. 1 — was as good a period as any period (statistically) as any series of games over the course of his career. Against the Steelers, Panthers, Broncos and Texans, Brady went 115-for-164 (70 percent) for 1,443 yards with 10 touchdowns and two interceptions — a per game average of 29-for-41 for 358 yards, 2.5 TDs and 0.5 INTs. In retrospect, it wasn’t coincidental that this was also the best four-game stretch of the season for Gronkowski.

Worst moment: The Oct. 6 loss to the Bengals in Cincinnati was the statistical (and offensive) nadir for Brady and the New England offense. The quarterback was 18-for-38 for 197 yards and a pick. In the midst of a monsoon, a last-minute drive by Brady and the Patriots fells short when he misfired on a late pass attempt. The contest marked the end of Brady’s streak of games with a touchdown pass at 52.

By the numbers: 5. Per Pro Football Reference, Brady led five game-winning drives in 2013. It was tops in the league in 2013, and tied with 2001 for the tops in his career in a single season (As defined by PFR, game-winning drives are defined as an offensive scoring drive in the fourth quarter or overtime led by the quarterback that puts the team ahead for the last time.)

Money quote: ‘€œIn my opinion, [it'€™s] by far the most impressive performance in any season that Tom has had. I know the numbers are not Tom Brady-like numbers. But based on the situation, the cast around him, the fact he is more of a player-coach, which is always tough; you’€™re teaching in the huddle, at the line, getting guys lined up. It is a testament to how good he really is.’€ — Former MVP Brett Favre, speaking with NFL Network on Brady’s 2013 season

Read More: position-by-position breakdown, Ryan Mallett, Tom Brady,
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