FOXBORO, Mass. — Trust clearly isn’t an issue between New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and free-agent addition Brandon LaFell.
Brady proved that Sunday in the Patriots’ 42-20 win over the Indianapolis Colts, when he showed confidence in LaFell’s timing, catch radius and ability to make a contested catch on two deep back-shoulder passes. The chemistry between Brady and LaFell paid off, as both second-half throws resulted in 20-plus-yard completions.
“We’ve been working pretty hard at it for a while, Brandon and I,” Brady said Wednesday at Gillette Stadium. “I think it’s a big trust thing. You have to trust when the ball is in the air, they’re not going to make the play on it. When you’re in those one-on-one situations, as a quarterback, you can only really control it until it leaves your hand. So, even though the outcome may not be good, sometimes you made the right decision, but you as a quarterback, when you’re decisive and you trust that someone’s going to make a positive play, it’s much easier just to let it rip. He’s really allowed me to do that. He’s been such a fun player, a fun teammate to have. He’s my locker-mate, so we have a great relationship. It’s been a lot of fun.”
LaFell’s strong performance this season has been a positive surprise for the Patriots. Many surmised that LaFell would struggle to adapt to the Patriots’ offense after coming from a more simple system with the Carolina Panthers. LaFell has bucked the trend of free-agent receivers struggling to get acclimated, however.
LaFell didn’t catch any passes in his first two games with the Patriots, but he’s caught 39 balls on 61 targets for 576 yards and five touchdowns since Week 3. Taking out Weeks 1 and 2, LaFell is on pace for a 1,000-yard season.
Brady, who’s accustomed to throwing to smaller receivers like Julian Edelman, Wes Welker and Deion Branch, is appreciative of having a physical presence like LaFell, who has shown a willingness to wrestle a ball away from a defensive back, like he did Sunday against Colts cornerback Darius Butler.
“It’s the advantage of having a big player like that,” Brady said. “You’re physically bigger than the opposing player that you’re going against, and you can use your body and your size to protect the ball. I think that’s one of Brandon’s greatest strengths. … When guys get tangled up with Brandon, they usually get the brunt of it. The closer you are to him, sometimes I don’t think that’s the best thing because he’s such a big presence, and he’s got really long arms. He’s got great hands to make those types of plays.”
Brady was being criticized for keying in on Edelman and tight end Rob Gronkowski two weeks into the season. LaFell has allowed Brady to spread the ball around more, and it’s allowed the offense to flourish.
“It’s great. The more of those guys who can be involved, the better we’re going to be as an offense. We need to find ways to distribute the ball to everybody, because if you’re on the roster, you have talent, and we’re gotta find a way to get the guys on the field to use that talent. Who knows who it’s going to be on a particular week. We really gotta see how the game plays out. If things are working like they were last weekend, then you have to stay with it. It’s too much pressure for an offense to go through one or two players all season. You’re not going to be a very good offense.”
Photo via Kevin Hoffman/USA TODAY Sports Images
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