The list of potential culprits in the New England Patriots’ loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday wasn’t short. The suspects included the referees whose blown calls nearly incited riots, the New England receivers who couldn’t get open, plus some guy on the other side of the field named Patrick Mahomes.
Then there was Tom Brady.
Prognosticating Brady’s demise has been a football sideshow for the better part of a decade. Cries of his downfall turned out to be a farce for so long that he became quite literally unprecedented: Brady has thrown more NFL passes as a 42-year-old than every other player his age—combined. He’s not just any 42-year-old. He’s the reigning Super Bowl champion quarterback.
But as the Patriots fell to the Chiefs 23-16 here on their home field, the numbers were unmistakable: Brady is playing as poorly as he ever has.
On the season, Brady is averaging his fewest yards per pass attempt since 2002, when most of his teammates were in elementary school and passing across the league was far less efficient. Over the last 10 games, he has a 78.9 passer rating, which ranks 25th out of 27 qualified passers. His yards per attempt, in that span, are dead last among those 27 quarterbacks.
The greatest irony may be that the same genius that allowed Brady to survive longer than any quarterback in NFL history may be underpinning his downfall. Brady, in large part, has stayed unimaginably healthy not due to a diet regimen of coconut chips, but because of how he styled his game. He throws short passes and gets rid of the ball quickly to stymie the incoming pass rush, which happens to compensate for the diminishments that come with age—decreased arm strength and durability.
But the same trends that prompt him to avoid hits are also integral to his problems: Brady has thrown away more passes than any quarterback in the NFL this season.
The result of all this: the Patriots have lost three of their last five games since an 8-0 start. Each came to phenom quarterbacks— Lamar Jackson, then Deshaun Watson and now Mahomes—while Brady has struggled, signaling the generational shift at hand.
But on Sunday, they weren’t beaten by Mahomes. The transcendent young quarterback was limited to a mediocre performance by New England’s transcendent defense, which can take most of the credit for the team’s 10-3 start. The Patriots lost because they didn’t score enough points, even in a game when they pulled out every trick to support their moribund offense.
On their opening touchdown drive, which was prolonged by two third-down penalties by Kansas City, Brady’s touchdown pass came on a flea-flicker that fooled the Chiefs defense so badly that Brady’s underthrown pass to Julian Edelman was still completed for the score.
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SOURCE: Wall Street Journal, Andrew Beaton