Tom Brady isn’t on the quite same existential level as Haley Joel Osment in The Sixth Sense, but he does seem to get a chill when the unexpected are near.
Steelers safety Ryan Clark charged Brady with seeing ghosts on the field at times during an interview on Monday, referencing the quarterback’s tendency to flinch or duck while in the backfield. But, while most quarterbacks would gawk at the apparent criticism, Brady is well aware of his tick. In fact, he considers it part of his game.
“It’s not something you think about, it’s just instinctive,” Brady said of his shifty behavior, during his Week 10 news conference last season.
Brady’s instincts are characteristics that separates him from nearly every other quarterback in football. His ability to read, understand and anticipate defenses allow him to decipher and execute plays that many can not.
He doesn’t electrify crowds with the same sort of breathtaking plays like Michael Vick or Robert Griffin III. His game isn’t built on speed or athleticism. Instead, it’s predicated on awareness, precision and protection, which is exactly where his twitchy tendencies take hold.
Over the past three seasons, Brady has been sacked a total of 84 times, which ranks as the fifth fewest among full-time starting quarterbacks. The only quarterbacks sacked fewer times were Tampa Bay’s Josh Freeman (83), Atlanta’s Matt Ryan (77), New Orleans’ Drew Brees (75) and the New York Giants’ Eli Manning (an astonishing 63). For comparisons sake, both Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers (118) and Baltimore’s Joe Flacco (106), who won two of the past three Super Bowls, were taken down considerably more often.
Brady’s low sack total is only proof that his dodge, duck, dip, dive and dodge method — the five D’s of dodgeball for all you scoring at home — does work. The Patriots’ offensive line does deserve some credit of their own in the feat. Then again, Brady’s intention is to take pressure off the line as it is.
“Hopefully it’s something where you can buy a little more time for your offensive line back there and stepping up and moving in the pocket is always important for a quarterback to do,” Brady added during that same week last season. “We work on drills and so forth. It’s just a matter of doing it at the right time.”
When it comes down to it, Brady’s so-called “instincts” are are just a product of hard work and anticipation. There is also no doubt that he’s watched enough film on each opponent to know how much time he’ll have in the pocket, but it’s that sort of preparation that makes the Patriots’ offense so dangerous year-in and year-out.
So, Clark and the rest of the NFL can continue chirping about how Brady “sees ghosts.” It won’t bother him one bit. He’ll just keep dipping and dodging his way away from pressure and, if history is any indicator, right on into the playoffs.