NFL morning after: Tom Brady is back

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Until Sunday, Tom Brady wasn’t just having a bad year. He was having by far the worst year of his NFL career.

Heading into Sunday’s games, the list of quarterbacks who had a higher passer rating than Brady this season included Chad Henne, Matt Schaub, Mike Glennon and Thad Lewis. Brady’s passer rating was a career-low 74.9. Brady’s completion rate was a career-low 55.7 percent. Brady’s average yards per pass was a career-low 5.9. Brady was throwing touchdowns a career-low rate, with only nine in his 307 attempts through eight games. There was talk that Brady’s hand was hurting, that he was getting old, that he couldn’t adjust to all the turnover in his receiving corps. In short, Brady stunk.

And now Brady is back.

In Sunday’s 55-31 win over the Steelers, Brady completed 23 of 33 passes for 432 yards, with four touchdowns and no interceptions. Brady led the Patriots to 33 first downs and 610 yards, and the 55 points were the most ever allowed by the Steelers, in the 81-year history of the franchise. It was as good a game as Brady has ever played, and it should pretty well silence any talk that there was anything wrong with Brady over the first half of the season that won’t be fixed over the second half of the season.

“It feels good,” Brady said after the game. “They don’t always go like that. That was a fun day. It was good execution. I think for the most part, that was our best day of execution. You don’t wake up in the morning and think they’re going to be like that. That was pretty sweet.”

That was pretty great. Brady was the player who impressed me most on Sunday. Here are my other thoughts:

If workplace harassment is common in the NFL, the NFL has a problem. The odd story of Dolphins offensive lineman Jonathan Martin, who left the team as a result of apparent harassment from his teammates, has some people to say hazing goes on in every locker room, and it’s just a part of the culture of being a professional football player. To which I say, so what? If Martin didn’t like the way he was being treated, it was incumbent on others to stop treating him that way. And it was incumbent on the Dolphins to see to it that their employee wasn’t mistreated. The Dolphins showed they’re taking this seriously by suspending Richie Incognito for his treatment of Martin. Now it’s incumbent on the NFL to ensure that every player and every team knows that players mistreating their teammates will not be tolerated.

The NFL’s modified sudden-death overtime is great. It used to feel like such an anticlimax when an overtime game would be decided by the team that won the coin toss driving down to the 30-yard line and winning on a 48-yard field goal. The new sudden-death, which requires the team that wins the toss to score a touchdown to win on its first possession, is so much better. On Sunday Washington ran a great game-winning drive in overtime that included five plays after they were already in field goal range. A long, sustained drive is a lot more fun to watch than a short drive and a long field goal.

Yes, the Jets are improving. I was skeptical last week, when Jets owner Woody Johnson said his team was improving rapidly — days after the Jets had lost 49-9 to the Bengals. But I’ll have to eat some crow after the Jets beat the Saints on Sunday. Rex Ryan knows how to build a defense, and Jets offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg is doing a nice job of calling plays that take advantage of rookie quarterback Geno Smith’s strengths and mask some of his weaknesses as a passer. The Jets aren’t a great team, but they’re getting better.

Good call. My favorite play call of the day came in Carolina, where the Panthers went for it on fourth-and-1, lined up as if they were going to run power to the left, then had Cam Newton roll to the right and hit a wide-open Greg Olsen for a 14-yard touchdown. A great decision by head coach Ron Rivera to go for it, and a well-designed play by offensive coordinator Mike Shula.

Bad call. With the Bills leading the Chiefs 10-3 in the third quarter and facing third-and-1 at the 1-yard line, the obviously right thing to do was to play it safe, hand it off to Fred Jackson or C.J. Spiller, and kick the field goal if you don’t score. Instead, the Bills let undrafted rookie quarterback Jeff Tuel, making his first NFL start, throw a pass. The result: Tuel throws it right into the hands of Chiefs defensive back Sean Smith, who picks off the pass and runs it back 100 yards. Instead of the Bills leading 17-3 or 13-3, they found themselves tied 10-10. It was a terrible decision by Tuel but an even worse decision by the Bills’ coaches to put the game in their third-string quarterback’s hands in that situation.

Ugly call. What on earth was that end-around the Saints ran on fourth-and-1 in the fourth quarter against the Jets? New Orleans coach Sean Payton has always been a creative offensive play caller, but sometimes he outsmarts himself. That was a prime example.

Why was Brandon Weeden ever the Browns’ starting quarterback? The Browns have now started three quarterbacks this season: Weeden had the job at the beginning of the year, then relinquished it when he hurt his thumb, then got it back after his replacement Brian Hoyer suffered a season-ending knee injury, then lost it to Jason Campbell. We’ve now seen enough of all three quarterbacks to make it clear: Weeden is by far the worst of the bunch. Hoyer played very well early in the season, and now Campbell has played two straight strong games, including leading the Browns to a victory over the Ravens on Sunday. It’s hard to imagine what the Browns were thinking putting Weeden ahead of both Hoyer and Campbell on the depth chart, when he’s clearly not as good as either of them. The Browns have a good defense, and they play in the weak AFC North. They don’t need a great quarterback to win their division, just a competent quarterback. With Campbell, they have a chance to catch the Bengals in the AFC North. Unfortunately, the Browns may not be able to overcome the four games they lost with Weeden as their quarterback.

Chip Kelly is an offensive genius again. Nick Foles tied the NFL record with seven touchdown passes in Sunday’s win over the Raiders, and Kelly’s Philadelphia offense looked outstanding. It’s hard to understand how an offense that looked so awful in losses to the Cowboys and Giants could look so good in Oakland, but when Kelly’s offense is rolling, it’s a nightmare for opposing defenses.

Gronk is great, when he’s healthy. Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski is such a unique offensive weapon — you just don’t find guys that big and strong who also have soft hands and run great routes. Gronkowski had nine catches for 143 yards against the Steelers on Sunday and was a big part of Brady’s big day — and a constant matchup nightmare for Pittsburgh. Unfortunately, Gronkowski’s arm and back injuries have caused him to miss 11 of the Patriots’ last 14 games. As long as the Patriots have a healthy Gronk, they can expect to have Brady at his best.

46 responses to “NFL morning after: Tom Brady is back

  1. The Patriots record in the second half of the season over the last ten years has been nothing short of amazing. Despite injuries, Belichick comes up with team players to fill a role. This year, it was almost like he was stockpiling players nursing injuries while a team of rookies got their feet wet. They keep winning the turnover battle, playing hard for 60 (or more) minutes, and winning the close games. Yesterday the Steelers came roaring back in the third quarter but the Patriots responded. Not many teams can pass (short and deep) and run the football (outside and inside) with the power of the Patriots. With Vereen coming back the Patriots will have a weapon in the passing game coming out of the backfield they haven’t had all year. Can Bill scheme on the defense to make up for the plethora of injuries on that side of the ball? If they get a bye they could wind up back int he Super Bowl.

  2. Brady definitely played great, but letting the steelers come back and tie it up wasn’t great for the defense. The 3rd and 30 that allowed 29 yards was horrible too. They have to stay stout and not get back to relying on Brady.

  3. Everything you say about Gronk is true but he took (and gave) a physical beating on Sunday. Belichick needs to protect Gronk’s body or he will lose him again. The Patriots need him to not only get to, but to win, the Super Bowl.

  4. At least we won’t have to listen or read about how good the Steelers are for the rest of the year! Run and hide , Steeler fans , ’cause it’s going to get real ugly now. Maybe you can beat Jax…or Tampa Bay….maybe?

  5. You do understand this 55 points was against a horrendous Steeler defense that has lost to the likes of Minnesota, Tennessee, Oakland, etc.? This is like saying Tiger’s back just because he wins one golf tournament. How many majors has Tiger won lately? How many SBs has Tommy Boy won lately (once the cheating stopped)?

  6. Brady is great, having bad year, but we bring out best in him..
    I hope we lose out..We have qb in place, so mickey mouse operations like Cleveland keep winning meaningless games, we will pick higher that u, yes u get our 3rd, we will get 2 3rds for Wallace and Lewis and 4th or 5th for Mendenhall..
    Ravens are done, Flacco contract was awful. Steelers will regroup, but won’t matter until Mike Obama is fired….He is awful..
    Kevin Colbert has been awful for too long, time to clean house…Good thing liberal Rooney fired Arians…

  7. ngw8070 says: Nov 4, 2013 7:23 AM

    Tough to say Brady and Gronk are back when they’re beating up one of the worst teams in football

    Going into this game Pitt had the # 8 total D and # 2 overall vs. the pass.

  8. So where are all the haters today who said the Pats and Brady are done and finished (comical)? 7-2…another win…business as usual. It must make your skin crawl huh haters? Another Patriots win for you guys must feel about as good as a new pimple. Sit back and enjoy. Keep giving us opportunities at another Super Bowl ring and sooner or later it’s going to come.

  9. Playing against the 2013 Steelers defense will def improve a QB’s stats. Nevertheless, gr8 to head into the bye off that performance.

  10. You lose Wilfork which is the best DT on the team, you lose Mayo best LB on the team and you lose Talib your best CB on the team and you still find ways to win and be 7-2, that says it all about the Patriots organization.

  11. karla36 says: It couldn’t have happened against a better team!!

    It couldn’t have happened against better fans. Steeler fans are the most arrogant in the league and now they are stuck with knowing that Brady and the Patriots put 55 points on the Steelers, an all-time record.

  12. The UGLY:

    When Earl Thomas got a terrible pass interference called on him after he made a great play and intercepted the ball…which led to the first Bucs touchdown.

  13. It’s hard to understand how an offense that looked so awful in losses to the Cowboys and Giants could look so good in Oakland, but when Kelly’s offense is rolling, it’s a nightmare for opposing defenses.

    Is it hard to understand? When Nick Foles is healthy, that offense clicks on all cylinders. He was most definitely NOT healthy against the Cowboys. Vick just can’t do it, plain and simple. Barkley moves the offense, but he’s not seeing the defense fully yet, as I would expect from a rookie. Thats why he’s throwing picks.

    However, as many Eagle fans said from the get go, Nick Foles is the one that should have had the keys from day 1. He makes quick decisions, doesn’t make mistakes, can actually read a defense and anticipate his receivers, doesn’t take many sacks, gets them to the line quick and is accurate. In other words, he’s the perfect QB for Chip Kelly’s offense, despite the fallacy that Kelly loves running QBs. The competition was rigged for Vick to win, even though Foles looked arguably better in pre-season.

    Foles’ game yesterday was statistically the BEST game by a QB in NFL history. STATISTICALLY speaking. He had more TDs than incompletions, no turnovers, a 78% completion rating… in other words, theres really nothing he could have done any better.

  14. flmike says: Nov 4, 2013 8:28 AM

    Seriously? Lets see Brady do that against a team with an actual defense…

    So the Steelers coming into this game had the #8 overall D and the # 2 pass D. The would be an “actual defense”

  15. On the OT, I would personally prefer the model BB talked about awhile back where they just play out a shorter quarter, no sudden death (like 7-8 min) and that’s that whatever happens. But I believe that the winner of the coin toss was only about 50% likely to win the game with the old model.

  16. Brady never left or went anywhere. Any QB working with almost all rookie receivers would have struggled the way he has. Edelman has been the only veteran receiver who was familiar with the system that has played all year.

    Not to mention making the Pats play their second game on Thursday night with no full practices for those rookies. Given the receiver is a position typically takes 2-3 years for the player to settle into, Brady has done just fine with what he’s had to work with.

    The Steelers could actually be a good team but they seem to have lost that team identity that pulls everyone together on the same page and gives them a tough attitude.

  17. Seriously? Lets see Brady do that against a team with an actual defense…

    So the Steelers coming into this game had the #8 overall D and the # 2 pass D. The would be an “actual defense”

    You fail to mention they are 28 in sacks 13 in scoring and 27 in interceptions

  18. Some major stats this week – 55 points, over 1000 yards total offense, but I didn’t know the Pats got 33 first downs. That is an incredible stat!

  19. Brady has done more with less throughout his career, but even he can’t help WRs that run the wrong routes or constantly drop passes that hit them square in the hands. Belichick presumably agrees, since near as I can tell he had Dobson spend the last few weeks just standing in front of a pitch machine firing footballs at him for 12 hours a day. Any drop was a demerit, and believe me you do not want a Belichick demerit.

  20. Even the “haters” need to give Brady some credit.

    Look around the NFL to see supposedly good franchises imploding – the Giants, Steelers, Texans and Ravens to name just a few.

    While many of those faltering teams use injuries and players lost to free agency as an excuse they actually can’t compare to the Patriots who have lost WRs, their top Defensive players, and several other key members of their OL who are so critical in giving Brady time to throw to even no-name receivers.

    They went into the season without their two TEs – and have even overcome the arrest of a player on murder charges

    and are STILL 7-2 as they go into the bye

    They have every excuse to lose that all the above mentioned teams have – AND Brady’s been playing with a hurt, swolen playing hand

    Except they take no excuses and just keep winning. Now, with 7 games remaining it looks like they could finally be getting healthy at WR and TE and could be peaking by December – which should be every non-Patriots’ fan’s fear.

  21. I think we should all hold back on the Browns lovefest. They’re better than alot of people thought they were (see the Jets), but lets be honest it’s gonna be a Herculean effort to catch Cincinnati. Even with their injuries, they ‘re still better than Cleveland on most days. (See Jets chances of catching New England) same scenario.

  22. Charger fans must be depressed, after they return from the beach, to recall the horrible play selection at the close of regulation time in their game. Let us recall what the plays were when they had the ball on the goal line. Three WR left side, no TE, single RB who weighs less than 200 lbs sent straight into the D-line, stuffed. Next play, a fade that has a low percentage of success, it failed. Then he rolls right to eliminate 50% of the field and make it easier for the D, it fails. Brilliant!

  23. Brady never left. It just takes time to build trust, rhythm, and timing with new receivers.

    Chip Kelly’s offense is still not NFL Ready. My Raiders have 10 new starters on defense and struggle against uptempo offenses. Raiders couldn’t stop the Redskins Wack offense either when they started to go no huddle/uptempo after getting boat raced in the 1st quarter.

    Once my squad figures out how to stop uptempo offense we’ll be alright. Eagles and their squad is garbage though…#NotImpressed.

  24. @bringingthepain

    One offensive outburst in 9 games? What’d you just not watch any football for those 9 games?

    Week 1: 33 points
    Week 2: 30 points
    Week 5: 36 points
    Week 6: 31 points
    Week 9: 49 points.

    Team stats:

    1st in rushing yards
    4th in total offense
    5th in scoring.

    That’s not “one offensive outburst.”

  25. Let’s not continue for you guys to be stupid.

    Brady never left.

    Any QB, including Brady, Mannings, Brees, Rodgers, and Roethlisberger must have a decent performing offensive line to excel. Why football sports writers cannot keep it straight that a decent offensive line is the essential foundation needed for a team’s offense to produce will forever be a mystery, or at least, a testament to the sports writers continued willful ignorance.

    Next, a QB must have receivers who know how to run routes, adjust those routes to the coverage being given, and adjust to when they become the hot receiver. Without those things, a QB must wait for the receiver to get clearly open before they can pass the ball. That and a QB’s mistrust of his receivers produce the dreaded “checkdown” QB who refuses to pass to receivers who seem open, but knows that by the time the ball gets there, the receivers will be covered.

    Yes, blame it all on the QB since they get all of the glory and in some cases, all of the money (right Flacco?), but a bit of real football understanding will go a long way to posting intelligent articles.

    As Roethlisberger is enduring his trials (poor offensive line and some poor to average receivers) and Brady is now proving, you cannot be an elite QB without a decent offensive line and receivers who can play the offensive as designed.

    BTW, Brady never left. His offensive line and receiver corps has finally started to get up to speed and catch up with Brady.

    On the other hand, the Patriots defense is really playing very poor right now and will be why the team may be eliminated in the playoffs.

  26. pens5829 says:Nov 4, 2013 7:50 AM

    You do understand this 55 points was against a horrendous Steeler defense that has lost to the likes of Minnesota, Tennessee, Oakland, etc.? This is like saying Tiger’s back just because he wins one golf tournament. How many majors has Tiger won lately? How many SBs has Tommy Boy won lately (once the cheating stopped)?


    It was the most points the Steelers allowed in the history of their franchise. The Steelers are definitely not a great team, but an offensive beat down like that is still a good showing for the offense who has struggled against some other mediocre teams this year.

    Nice that you think of Brady at the Tiger Woods level.

    As far as the Super Bowl, we all know that all 5 Super Bowls that Brady has been in were close games and could have went either way. 3 wins, 5 appearances and 7 AFC championship appearances, all in 11 years of starting games is pretty amazing. If you want to bring Spygate into it, it’s fine, but there’s no logic in that. It’s just hard to win the Super Bowl, plain and simple. 29 AFC teams have not won the Super Bowl since the Patriots won their last one in 2004. Only Indy, the Ravens and Steelers have won. It’s pretty lucky for Patriots fans to have seen what we have in the last decade or so, and it’s another exciting year. Nothing to complain about for Patriots fans.

  27. Chip Kelly, you looked great in your away game in Oakland!
    Now Sean Payton’s idea of using a 3rd string TE in an end around and Buffalo’s one yard pass into a 100 yard pick 6 were the worst brain farts of the day!

  28. I’ve been a Steelers fan since day 1 and this is the worst I’ve ever seen them play (we have some injuries but that’s not the main issue). While I will say Tom Brady had a great game yesterday, I wouldn’t be so quick to say he’s back. We have also made the following QB’s look good this year: Cutler, Dalton, Locker, Cassell, and Pryor. I know it probably won’t happen (since the Steelers keep head coaches around forever) but Tomlin should be put on thin ice…..he just looks lost out there.

  29. The UGLY (in terms of officiating) is definitely the Earl Thomas interception that was taken away on a bogus pass interference call.

    Earl Thomas supposedly used an arm bar which prevented the receiver from catching the ball. I argue that Thomas’ arm did not prevent the receiver from playing the ball since they both touched the ball as it entered Earl Thomas’ hands. Likewise Earl Thomas did not alter the receivers path nor prevent the receiver in any other way from playing the ball. Earl Thomas intercepted that ball and the refs took it away. There was contact. I’m not saying there wasn’t. But it was clean defense and a clear interception.

    I know, it’s tough for anyone to take a Seahawks fan seriously when we keep complaining about the refs.. But, in this instance, anyone would complain if that situation happened to your team.

  30. Tom Brady is back? He never left. Solid beat down on the Steelers (and I’m a Steelers fan). What about Brady becoming the first QB to be 100 wins over .500? That’s impressive, especially in light of the fact I think there have been only 11 QBs who have even won 100 games.

    Yes, it’s easy to pick on the Pats for not winning a SB since Spygate (never mind ribbing them for Spygate in the first place) and how they choked away a perfect season and how Brady’s QB rating in the playoffs is a fair bit lower than during the regular season, but you can’t take away this kind of achievement. Brady and the Pats just win, over and over again. Except in the SB since Spygate. Hey, I said I was a Steelers fan! Poke.

  31. Anyone who has been actually watching all the Pat’s games this season, as I am forced to by the wife being a fan, knows Brady’s accuracy is off. Everyone was easy to blame the rookies early on, but things did not really improve from him once he had veteran targets back on the field.

    Can he still win? yes. Can he still rally comebacks? yes. Is he one of the best QBs to ever play the game? I don’t know but my eyes work just fine and I see lots of bad passes every week.

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