The New England Patriots might not want to rely too heavily on the deep ball once the playoffs begin.
When ramming the ball down the Miami Dolphins’ throat with running back Steven Jackson didn’t work in the first half, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady began going deep in the third and fourth quarters. If the outcome of the Patriots’ regular season finale wasn’t any indication, neither worked in the 20-10 loss to the Dolphins.
The Patriots ran the ball 21 times (including a kneeldown, plus a penalty) in the first half and passed the ball just five times (plus two accepted penalties). Down 10-3 in the second half, the Patriots started firing. The Patriots dropped back to pass 22 times (plus two accepted penalties) and the Patriots ran the ball just six times (plus one accepted penalty).
Brady attempted six deep passes in his 24 passing attempts (including penalties), accounting for 25 percent of his throws.
Deep passes accounted for just 7.7 percent of Brady’s passing attempts (excluding penalties) in the Patriots’ Week 14 and 15 wins. Deep balls accounted for 14 percent of Brady’s passing attempts (excluding penalties) in their Week 12, 13, 16 and 17 losses. Deep balls accounted for just 9.7 percent of passes in the Patriots’ 12 wins this season.
Let’s take a closer look at Brady’s deep heaves against the Dolphins, which seemed even more strange since Brady was nursing an ankle injury, and deep passes take longer to develop, putting the QB at more risk to get hit.
In fact, wide receivers Brandon LaFell and Keshawn Martin were streaking down the field on Brady’s second sack of the game.
— Brady’s first deep attempt was a success. He drew a defensive pass interference penalty on first-and-10 with 3:53 left in the second quarter, when he targeted tight end Scott Chandler down the left sideline.
— Brady’s second deep attempt came on first-and-10 with 11:10 remaining in the third quarter, when he targeted receiver Danny Amendola, who was lined up in the slot on the right side of the field. The game was tied 10-10.
— Brady’s third deep attempt came on first-and-10 with 7:44 remaining in the third quarter, when he targeted Gronkowski down the right sideline. The game was still tied 10-10.
— Brady’s next deep attempt came later in the same drive on third-and-1 with 6:16 remaining in the third quarter. It was Brady’s only deep ball that was actually caught.
— Brady’s fifth deep attempt came on the very next play as the Patriots faced third-and-11 after the pass interference penalty.
— Brady’s final deep pass came when the score was still tied 10-10 with 11:26 remaining in the game on first-and-10.
Overall, Brady was 0 for 4 on deep attempts with a 10-yard offensive pass-interference penalty on third-and-1 and 24-yard defensive pass interference penalty that eventually led to a missed field goal.
The Patriots were stuck between a rock and a hard place Sunday, because they didn’t want to risk Amendola and Gronkowski on throws over the middle of the field, the quick passing game went away when Julian Edelman broke his foot in Week 10, and despite some hard running by Steven Jackson, the rushing attack wasn’t generating consistent production because of an inconsistent offensive line.
So, Brady took risks downfield, and they didn’t pay off. The Patriots go deep when they’re desperate, so it makes sense that they attempt more throws over 20 yards in losses.
Brady’s inconsistency on the deep throws — he was just 24 of 67 on the season — was showcased against the Dolphins, and it hasn’t proven to be a successful way to generate quick points for the Patriots.
Thumbnail photo via Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY Sports Images
Thumbnail photo via Jan 3, 2016; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) throws a pass against the Miami Dolphins during the second half at Sun Life Stadium. The Dolphins won 20-10. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
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