ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — New England Patriots wide receiver Chris Hogan laughed when he was informed Tom Brady’s deep ball has been dissected and criticized over the past seven seasons.

“I don’t know who was doing that criticizing, but he’s the best,” Hogan said after the Patriots’ 41-25 win over the Buffalo Bills.

Brady tore his ACL in 2008, still was recovering in 2009 and lost Randy Moss in 2010. Somewhere in there, his deep ball went caput and appeared gone for good. Then the Patriots acquired Hogan and Martellus Bennett this offseason, and Brady’s deep ball miraculously resurrected as the QB came off a four-game suspension.

Statistically, Brady had his worst performance of the season in the vertical passing game Sunday, going 3 of 8. He came into the game 10 of 13 on passes that traveled over 15 yards, but it was clear that rate wouldn’t persist for the rest of the season. Yet Brady threw deep for 124 yards with two touchdowns against the Bills, and perhaps his prettiest pass of the season came late in the first quarter to Hogan, who caught the ball in stride for a 53-yard TD.

“It’s just one of those plays,” Hogan said. “I think it was a long third down. Good chance that maybe if I had a good release off the line then the ball was going to come to me. Once I got off the line and looked back, the ball was already in the air. It seemed like the ball was in the air for a long time. I knew it was just one of those things that go up and make a play, and Tom made an awesome throw. Didn’t even have to stop.”

Brady now is 3 of 3 on deep passes to Hogan this season for 159 yards with a touchdown. Hogan is Brady’s best vertical-threat wide receiver since Moss, and he and Rob Gronkowski form perhaps the best deep duo of Brady’s career.

Hogan had a successful outing against his former team Sunday, catching four passes for 91 yards with a touchdown while drawing a holding penalty.

It’s looking now like Brady’s deep ball never went anywhere. It’s just the right targets that disappeared.

Thumbnail photo via Timothy T. Ludwig/USA TODAY Sports Images