FOXBORO, Mass. — Sorry, New England Patriots fans, you’ll have to find something else to complain about this season. Tom Brady’s deep ball is off limits for now.
The Patriots quarterback has completed 45 percent (9 of 20) of his passes that travel over 20 yards this season. That’s a career high — and up from just 25 percent in 2014 and 23 percent in 2013.
Brady, who has thrown for 282 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions on deep passes, was surprised to hear his numbers have improved so drastically this season.
“We’ve talked about that a lot over the last couple years, trying to make plays more vertically on the defense,” Brady said Wednesday. “I think we do a good job, obviously, horizontally, and all the way from behind the line of scrimmage to the goal line.
“I think the best offenses really can challenge you in a lot of ways. Certainly getting the ball down the field is a great way to — it’s great to have those 12- and 13-play drives, but it’s great to play in one play or two plays also.
“It’s a trust. It’s quarterback-to-receiver trust or relationship, trying to put the ball where our guy can make a play on it and believing that our guy isn’t going to let them make a play.
Brady appears to be picking his spots, which helps. The Patriots’ offensive line has been beat up by injuries and faced tough defensive lines that easily can generate pressure, so Brady is getting rid of the ball more quickly and isn’t letting some plays fully develop.
Brady is on pace for just 46 deep throws this season after averaging 60 in his 12 previous 16-game seasons. He also hasn’t yet attempted a pass over 40 yards this season.
Brady acknowledged his deep accuracy hasn’t always been the greatest, as he usually hovers around 30 percent on deep passes.
“As far as the mechanics, I’ve really tried to work on those,” Brady said. “A lot of them are probably pretty much the same, whether it’s a 5-yard pass or a 50-yard pass. The mechanics of the throw are very similar.
“It would be like hitting a wedge or a driver. It’s the same swing, one is just — there’s a little nuance to it that’s a little different. I haven’t hit the driver as well as I’ve probably hit the wedges, but if I can hit the driver a little better, it will make things a little easier on the team.”
The Patriots are 7-0, and Brady is averaging 8.34 yards per attempt, so something certainly is clicking on offense.
One would assume tight end Rob Gronkowski would lead the team in deep receptions, but he has just two catches for 63 yards. Ironically, slot receiver Danny Amendola leads the Patriots with three catches for 87 yards on deep throws. Gronk typically is covered by a strong safety or he’s bracketed by a linebacker and free safety, so the big tight end certainly helps take coverage away from other players running go routes.
Thumbnail photo via Stew Milne/USA TODAY Sports Images