Monday morning quarterbacks had plenty to say about Tom Brady’s decision-making in the closing seconds of Sunday’s loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Chief among the complaints was that Brady opted to throw into the end zone from Pittsburgh’s 21-yard line on each of the New England Patriots’ final three snaps rather than dump a short pass off to running back James White, who was wide open in the flat on second-and-15 and third-and-15.
Brady targeted a blanketed Rob Gronkowski on both of those plays, and each pass fell incomplete, as did his heave to a triple-covered Julian Edelman on fourth down that sealed the Steelers’ 17-10 victory at Heinz Field.
Checking down to White, critics argued, would have been an easy way to pick up some quick yardage and still leave time for a higher-percentage shot at a game-tying touchdown.
Bill Belichick strongly disagrees with those gripes.
The Patriots coach delivered a passionate defense of his star quarterback during a Tuesday morning conference call.
“Tom’s a very experienced quarterback in our system, very experienced playing against our opponent, Pittsburgh last week,” Belichick said. “He has excellent judgment and decision-making abilities. So, again, when the play’s called, the ball’s not supposed to go to anybody unless it’s a screen pass or something like that. We’re not trying to throw to one guy.
“So all the questions about ‘why don’t we throw to this guy?’ — because there’s five guys out on the pattern, and we’re going to try to do what’s best on that play. And in Tom’s judgment — which, I would certainly not second-guess his judgment — given the game situation and the time and all the things that went into that play, he made the best decision that he thought he could make at that time. And I’m not going to second-guess it.
“You can second-guess it if you want to, but nobody knows better at that time, with the ball in his hands, where he feels like he’s got the best chance. And if we complete a pass and the clock’s running, how much time that’s going to take and what we have left, that’s a split-second decision that he’s got to make. I don’t think anybody will make it better than him.
“You can second-guess it all you want, but that’s the person that we have doing that, and we have great confidence in him doing it. It’s a tough situation. I don’t know if there’s a great answer. When you don’t have much time, you have to throw to the end zone, or you maybe marginally have enough time to throw it somewhere else if you can get out of bounds. So the defense has a big advantage in that situation. They played it well, and we weren’t able to get it in the end zone.”
Such a strong show of support from Belichick was noteworthy and somewhat surprising given his reportedly fraught relationship with Brady over the past few seasons. Recent reports have suggested the two now are on better terms, however, with ESPN’s Jeff Darlington earlier this month reporting they are “vibing much more” this season.