Tom Brady’s first-down gallop with over three minutes left in the fourth quarter was emblematic of the New England Patriots’ 23-16 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday.
It’s easy to blame Brady for the Patriots’ offensive failings this season. Wins oftentimes are credited to a quarterback’s resume, so why shouldn’t losses? Brady’s stat line was ugly for the fifth straight week as he completed just over half of his passes with a touchdown and interception.
The Patriots faced fourth-and-6 with 3:26 left to go trailing by seven points. Brady had tossed a deep heave to wide receiver Phillip Dorsett on the previous play. Dorsett was interfered with, but the officials didn’t throw a flag in a particularly awful game by the referees. Left tackle Isaiah Wynn had committed a false start two plays before the incompletion to Dorsett. Patriots receivers were charged with three dropped passes on the afternoon. New England’s offensive line had one of its worst performances of the season.
So, if Brady’s line wasn’t going to give him protection, his receivers were going to drop passes and the officials weren’t going to call an accurate game, Brady would simply take off on his own. He picked up 17 yards and the first down to give his team a fighting chance to tie the game now at the 12-yard line with time to spare.
Everything before this red-zone possession no longer mattered — the offensive struggles, the defense’s bounce back in the second half, the abhorrent officiating. Suddenly, the Patriots had a chance to push this game to overtime with a successful red-zone conversion.
As you already know, it didn’t happen.
On the first play inside the red zone, the timing was off on a shovel pass to running back James White, and the play got blown up in the backfield for a 2-yard loss. The Patriots didn’t want to give the Chiefs time to score, so they drained the clock down to the two-minute warning.
On second-and-12, Brady failed himself.
White and wide receiver Julian Edelman both were double covered, and wideouts Jakobi Meyers and Mohamed Sanu weren’t open down the left sideline. So, Brady threw with pressure bearing down into the back of the end zone to tight end Matt LaCosse.
It was a difficult throw, and Brady didn’t want to risk it being picked off, but it also was inaccurate. LaCosse laid out for the ball, but it was off his fingertips. It was uncatchable.
The Patriots picked up 9 yards on the next play. The Chiefs sent a cover-zero blitz, and Brady delivered a strike to Edelman with pressure in his face.
The Patriots now faced fourth-and-3 with 1:11 left in the game. The Chiefs sent eight defenders, and the Patriots only deployed Sanu, Meyers and Edelman on routes. Edelman and Sanu were covered, while Meyers was open for a first down.
Brady threw at Edelman, and the pass was batted down by cornerback Breshaud Breeland. Game over.
More on that here, courtesy of former NFL QB and current ESPN analyst Dan Orlovsky:
Tom Brady watched Jacobi Meyers drop 3 passes in yesterday’s @Patriots game. And in THE moment of the football game passed him up when he is wide open. Do you blame him? I don’t…. @patspulpit @mikegiardi @getupespn @rochiewbz @benvolin pic.twitter.com/Slcocj30iy
— Dan Orlovsky (@danorlovsky7) December 9, 2019
There’s an argument to be made that Brady really could only trust three players Sunday: Edelman, White and left guard Joe Thuney. Between rushes, catches and passes, Edelman and White accounted for 198 of the Patriots’ 278 yards. Thuney was the only offensive lineman clean in pass protection, and he’s been far and away their best blocker this season.
Wynn, center James Ferentz and right tackle Marcus Cannon, who’s still nursing an illness, let up sacks. Right guard Shaq Mason let up three hurries. Meyers dropped passes. Sanu was only targeted once as he recovers from an ankle injury. Rookie N’Keal Harry played two snaps. Brady was forced to throw away two passes. He was under pressure on 40 percent of snaps.
Brady wasn’t perfect. He threw a costly interception early in the second quarter when he didn’t anticipate Breeland breaking off his coverage of Edelman to jump LaCosse’s route. He was inaccurate on a handful of other passes. But if Brady had some more trustworthy teammates around him on offense, his boxscore stats probably wouldn’t look much different than a typical season.