FOXBORO, Mass. — Two games into Tom Brady’s 2016 campaign, the idea of the New England Patriots quarterback winning the 2016 NFL MVP award in just 12 games isn’t looking so crazy.
Brady has completed 76 percent of his passes for 782 yards and six touchdowns with no interceptions in two games. He went 29 of 35 for 376 yards and three touchdowns with no turnovers Sunday in the Patriots’ 35-17 win over the Cincinnati Bengals as the QB played at Gillette Stadium for the first time since his four-game suspension concluded. He’s on pace for 4,692 yards and 36 touchdowns … in 12 games.
Brady won’t say it publicly, but it would be surprising if he DIDN’T have extra motivation after his Deflategate suspension. He’s certainly playing that way. And he believes his best is yet to come.
“I could do some things better out there,” Brady said Sunday after the win. “I think offensively we can, too. It’s good to be 5-1. I think we’re in a decent place. Just gotta keep stringing these games together. There’s a ton of football left.
“It’s a good defense we played today, and they made it challenging on us. We’re trying to figure out what we’re made of. It was good to get going there in the second half.”
Brady said last week that he was rusty. This week, he said he could do some things better after completing 82.9 percent of his passes.
The crazy thing is Brady might be right. The Patriots’ offense was stymied, relatively speaking, in the first half, when Brady completed 75 percent of his passes but threw for just 136 yards. When he wasn’t being pressured, his receivers weren’t getting open, and when his receivers were getting open, his offensive line was a turnstile.
“We’ve got to do a better job of getting open, getting the ball out and blocking them,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said Sunday. “So I’d say some of the problem we had were just team execution plays — coaching, playing. Just a little bit of everything.”
The Patriots also didn’t seem to fully deploy their two-tight end set until it was absolutely necessary in the second half. Rob Gronkowski had two catches on three targets for 41 yards in the second half, while Martellus Bennett wasn’t targeted.
Gronkowski finished with seven catches on nine targets for 162 yards with a touchdown, while Bennett had five catches on five targets for 48 yards.
Throw in wide receivers Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan and Danny Amendola and running backs LeGarrette Blount and James White, and this might be the best set of offensive weapons with which Brady has ever played. And at some point, running back Dion Lewis will come off the physically unable to perform list.
“They’re an exceptional group. There’s no doubt about it,” Brady said. “It’s been fun to work with them.
“We’re still building. It’s only six games into the year. There’s still a lot more work to do. There’s a long way to go. We’ll be challenged different weeks with different things, but it’s good to spread the ball around a little bit today. A lot of guys wound up making plays. That’s a good way to play.”
If Brady keeps up this pace, he’ll take home some individual hardware at the end of the season. It seems unsustainable, but Brady keeps implying the Patriots’ offense isn’t yet at its best.
Thumbnail photo via Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports Images