Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is struggling with the blitz this season.
Brady is usually among the best in football at getting the ball away quickly and accurately when opposing teams blitz him, but as former NFL quarterback Ron Jaworski demonstrated this week on ESPN’s NFL Matchup, that hasn’t been the case this season. Jaworski showed game film of a badly underthrown pass by Brady against the Bengals and showed how Brady could have hit either Julian Edelman or Aaron Dobson but instead completely missed as he felt the Bengals’ pass rush.
“With time in the pocket, Brady would either lead Edelman across the field, or hit Dobson coming underneath in the middle. Neither happened, the result of pressure,” Jaworski said. “The pocket closed down on Brady, he lacked time to wait for the routes to develop and the functional space to deliver the football.”
As Jaworski noted, Brady has usually picked apart opposing defenses when they came after him. According to ESPN, when opposing defenses blitzed Brady in 2012, he completed 64.2 percent of his passes, had a passer rating of 117.6 and was sacked only seven times. But this year, Brady blitzed has completed just 53.8 percent of his passes when blitzed, his passer rating against the blitz has plummeted to 81.9, and he’s already been sacked nine times when blitzed.
Just about any way you slice it, Brady is having his worst season. In his previous 11 seasons as the Patriots’ starter, Brady never had a completion rate lower than 60 percent and never had a passer rating lower than 85. This year Brady’s completion rate is 55.4 percent and his passer rating is 75.3. He’s also on pace to be sacked 46 times this season, which would top his previous high of 41 in his first year as the Patriots’ starter.
It’s fair to wonder how much of Brady’s susceptibility to pressure is a sign of his own decline, how much is the result of the offensive line’s ineffectiveness and how much is the fact that in the past, Brady knew he could count on Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski or Aaron Hernandez to be open for a short pass on a blitz, while this year Weler is in Denver, Hernandez is in jail and Gronkowski has played only one game.
But whatever the reason, pressure on Brady is a real problem for the Patriots.