Through three games this season, Brady has had mixed results in that department, and at times he has turned the spread offense into a misnomer. Surely, wide receivers Randy Moss and Wes Welker are two of the best in the business, but the Patriots won't experience their expected level of success if they don’t do their part to incorporate tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, and wide receivers Brandon Tate and Julian Edelman.
"We’re trying to spread it and make them defend everything," said Brady, who has 758 passing yards, eight touchdowns and two interceptions this season. "Because if it becomes one-dimensional and you start throwing to one or two guys, then that’s not hard to defend."
Brady is obviously well aware of the success an offense can have when he spreads the ball around, and he once famously backed up that theory by saying his favorite receiver is the open receiver. Yet, there have been times since 2009 when Brady has fallen too much in love with Moss and Welker, and that gluttony has led to punishment.
The quarterback has been given more weapons this season, though, and for the most part, he's done a better job of sharing the wealth.
Brady hit seven receivers in the Patriots' 38-24 victory against the Bengals in the season opener. Four players were targeted by Brady at least three times in the game, and four players caught at least three passes, with Welker leading the Patriots with eight receptions and 11 targets.
However, there was some one-sidedness in that game, as Welker and Moss combined to catch 13 of Brady's 25 completions (52 percent), and they were targeted on 19 of his 35 pass attempts (54.3 percent). Both of those percentages were season highs, but Brady at least capitalized by completing 68.4 percent of the passes thrown at his two valuable wideouts.
In a 28-14 loss to the Jets in Week 2, Brady completed passes to a season-best eight receivers, but he hit six of them in the first half — when the Patriots led, 14-10, and were grooving — before the offense drove into a crater in the second half. In the game, only two Patriots caught at least three passes, and four players were targeted at least three times, with Hernandez and Welker leading the team with six receptions each. Moss led the Patriots with 10 targets.
Combined, Moss and Welker caught eight of Brady's 20 completions (40 percent), and they were targeted on 17 of his 35 throws (48.6 percent). Yet, it wasn’t as successful because Brady only completed 47.1 percent of his throws in their direction — a number that was greatly skewed by his 2-of-10 effort toward Moss.
While wide receivers can be selfish by nature, Welker is the first to admit that spreading the ball around will make everyone's job easier to execute.
"When you do that," Welker said of spreading the love, "it makes it hard on the defense because they can't double certain guys or anything like that, and everybody is an option on every play. It makes the offense so much better."
Brady was at his best in that department in a 38-30 victory against the Bills last week. Seven Patriots caught passes, and four receivers caught at least three passes, while six players were targeted at least three times. Hernandez led the Pats with six catches and seven targets.
Combined, Moss and Welker caught six of Brady's 21 completions (28.6 percent), and they were targeted on nine of Brady's 27 attempts (33.3 percent). Brady completed 66.7 percent of his throws to Moss and Welker.
The statistics showcased two things. First, if Brady does lean to much toward Moss and Welker, it's not exactly the worst thing in the world as long as they're catching passes. But secondly, the offense is still more effective when Brady spreads it around to everyone else.
"It's great giving everyone in the offense an opportunity, and spreading the ball around makes the defense think more," Gronkowski said. "It definitely helps confusing the defense if you're giving the ball to eight, 10 different guys a game all over the field."
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