What’s wrong with Tom Brady and the Patriots offense?

New England Patriots

The New England Patriots are 10-1 on the back of a dominant defense, but what is wrong with Tom Brady and the offense?

It’s hardly panic time for the New England Patriots, with a 10-1 record heading into their matchup with the Houston Texans Sunday night. A historically dominant defense has largely carried the day though, with the offense and quarterback Tom Brady falling well short of previous (albeit lofty) standards.

New England enters Week 13 with the NFL’s fifth-best scoring offense (27.3 points per game), and Brady is fifth in the league in passing yards (2,942). But they sit just 17th in total offense (352.8 yards per game), and 23rd in rushing offense (91.9 yards per game). The defense has set up good field position, so it simply hasn’t required as much yardage for the Patriots’ offense to score points. But there are some real concerns, centered on Brady.

Over his last eight games, Brady has completed just over 60 percent of his passes with eight touchdowns and five interceptions (zero or one passing touchdown six times in that span) while taking 15 of the 18 sacks he’s taken for the season. For the season as a whole his 88.5 passer rating is 21st in the league, behind such luminaries as Case Keenum and Marcus Mariota and only slightly better than Giants’ rookie quarterback Daniel Jones (87.8).

Brady’s deeper accuracy numbers are well off-kilter this year. His on-target rate is 75.1 percent (20th in the league, behind Josh Allen-75.7 percent). His bad throw rate sits seventh-worst in the league (19.5 percent), as he’s in close company with Allen (19.6 percent) and Jameis Winston (20.2 percent).

The retirement of tight end Rob Gronkowski has hurt New England’s offense all the way around, with his prowess as a pass catcher and a dominant run blocker notably missing. Purely from a production standpoint, Patriots’ tight ends (Ben Watson, Ryan Izzo, Matt LaCosse, Eric Tomlinson) have combined for 24 receptions in 11 games this season, with Watson tallying 11 catches in five games.

Injuries and other issues have taken wide receivers Antonio Brown, Josh Gordon, Philip Dorsett and even freshly acquired Mohamed Sanu away at various points this season, leaving Julian Edelman (76 catches for 809 yards) and little else. Running back James White is only other Patriot with more than 30 catches this season.


 


From Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News, there’s some critical evidence to show Brady’s sub-par level of play recently.

The return of left tackle Isaiah Winn last week seemed to help, as some semblance of a running game came with Sony Michel putting up 85 yards on 20 carries. Rookie wide receiver N’Keal Harry also caught his first NFL touchdown last week against Dallas, as he played his second game since being activated off IR. For a team so devoid of weapons, having this year’s first-round pick in the mix is a notable addition.

A soft schedule has helped the Patriots weather the offense’s shortcomings to this point. But with the Texans (7-4), the Kansas City Chiefs (7-4) and the Buffalo Bills (8-3) on the slate over their next four games, these splits for Brady this year are set to become a real concern (h/t to Sportsnaut).

Against teams that are above .500: less than 240 yards per game; 79.5 passer rating
Against teams that are below .500: 284 yards per game; 93.6 passer rating

Next: 5 candidates to replace Ron Rivera as Panthers head coach

Even as the most prominent symbol of the issues for New England’s offense right now, it’s a mistake to write Brady off just yet. But it’s also become clear he can no longer overcome any and all deficiencies around him in the same way he has in the past, and that’s a big problem for the Patriots looking to down the stretch of the regular season and into the playoffs.

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