Sacks are an imperfect gauge for the quality of a quarterback’s pass protection. Because some QBs, like Tom Brady, are smart enough to get rid of the ball before a negative play occurs.
Brady only has been sacked 18 times this season despite an offensive line that has, at times, been ravaged by injuries and a turnstile receiving corps. His 3.9 percent sack rate ranks sixth-lowest in 18 seasons despite the offense’s limitations.
But Brady has already thrown the ball away 33 times in 11 games. That’s his highest mark since Pro Football Focus began tracking the stat in 2006. Brady is throwing the ball away on 7.5 percent of passing attempts, also a high mark since 2006.
Brady started throwing the ball away more later in his career, as you can see in the year-by-year rates below.
2019: 33/439 = 7.5%
2018: 30/570 = 5.3%
2017: 22/581 = 3.8%
2016: 30/432 = 6.9%
2015: 29/624 = 4.6%
2014: 21/582 = 3.6%
2013: 13/628 = 2.1%
2012: 19/637 = 3%
2011: 11/611 = 1.8%
2010: 10/492 = 2%
2009: 12/565 = 2.1%
2007: 19/578 = 3.3%
2006: 16/516 = 3.1%
He says it’s not about self-preservation.
“I don’t think I’m throwing it away for that,” Brady said Friday. “I’m throwing it away because I don’t want to take a sack. I think part of it is just you feel like you have an opportunity on the play, and if you don’t have that, then I think negative plays actually have a big impact on the game. Turnovers and negative plays I think really keep you from winning games.
“So, if you’re a dropback passer — because I’m not really a scrambler. I mean, I have scrambled in the past. It’s not like I’ve never scrambled. I’m not really much a scrambler. But if I’m going to hold it back there, then usually good things aren’t going to happen. So, try to throw the ball away to a safe place and live for the next down.”
Brady has a completion percentage of 62.2 percent this season. That’s his lowest rate since 2013. But if he had eaten 20 more sacks rather than throwing the ball away on those dropbacks, then his completion percentage would be above his career average.
Throwing the ball away doesn’t look great on Brady’s stat sheet, but it’s allowed the Patriots to stand at 10-1 on the season.