It is that time of the week again for Patriots Player of the Week. In what was an inspiring game against the Bills heading into the bye week there were many players who deserve credit for the win.
One of those players was Rob Gronkowski, who as usual made a big play just as the opposing team drew within a score. His 53 yard touchdown catch marked the 69th of his career, and also happened to be the Patriot record for most touchdowns.
Another standout was Chris Hogan who again showed his talent going deep. Hauling in another long bomb from Brady, this time going in for a touchdown. His deep presence gives the Patriots a pleasant addition to a usually dink and dunk offense. But despite Hogan’s big game his time has not yet come for player of the week, this week belongs to the one and only Tom Brady.
It is amazing it has taken this long for Brady to be chosen. He arguably could have been the player of the week every week since his return. But with no other monster performances this week other than Brady the choice was clear. Brady has came back from his suspension and taken the league by fire. In the middle of one of the best stretches of his career, and there was no decline in his play against the Bills.
The first play we will look at came on 3rd and 9 from the Buffalo 11 yard line. Tom Brady takes the snap and scans the field. He sees that everyone is covered and steps forward in the pocket to avoid the edge rushers. With still no one open and Kyle Williams diving at his ankles Brady escapes to his right to allow a receiver to break free. On this particular play he allows Amendola to break free from his coverage and head towards the pylon. The result is Brady’s first touchdown to a wideout this year.
One major thing stands out in this play. Pocket presence. Just a few years ago Tom Brady struggled to move around and make plays by keeping the play alive when the pocket collapses. Brady has done this a lot the past few years and it is shown beautifully on this play.
The next play we will take a look at came on a 3rd and 15 at the end of the first quarter. He takes the snap and immediately looks wide to Hogan. With pressure coming he takes a slight step forward in the pocket to set his feet. He then takes a quick glance across the middle of the field to make the safety hesitate a second longer. Hogan gets a good release on Gilmore and sprints up field with the safety no longer over the top. Tom Brady delivers a perfect ball right into the hands of Chris Hogan for a touchdown, bringing back memories of the 2007 Brady-Moss connection.
While many thought the deep ball would never return to be a strength for Brady, this year has proven otherwise.
This play highlights the second big area Brady has taken strides in over the past year. Only a few years ago Tom Brady was the worst in the league at throwing the deep ball, this year he is the best. With a QB rating of 100 (which is perfect) through 4 games it is clear he has found that part of his game again.
One reason for this emergence could be new receiver Chris Hogan. The two have displayed a connection going deep that hasn’t been seen since the Randy Moss days. This season Tom Brady has completed all 3 of his deep passed to Hogan for 159 yards and a touchdown. It may be a small sample size, but a trend is being established and must be watched closely in the second half of the season.
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The next big play Brady made came just as the Bills had drawn within 4 points at the end of the half. Facing 2nd and 6 from their own 48 yard line Gronk came out of hiding to make his first big play of the game. The play starts with Brady getting the ball in shotgun with an empty backfield. At first he looks for the underneath crossing route by Amendola. But with pressure coming he is forced to step up in the pocket and reset his feet. He sees Gronk breaking away from the Bills defensive back. Brady delivers a strike for his second 53 yard touchdown on the day and just like that the Patriots regain a two possession lead.
A big part about this play is Gronkowski’s route. With no one up on him at the line of scrimmage Gronk is able to get up to speed as he runs towards the defensive back. He then fakes an out route but then heads back up field around the defender. The slight hesitation he created along with already being at top speed gave Gronkowski the separation necessary for Brady to get him the ball.
An interesting thing to note is it seems like the Patriots have only been targeting Gronk when they feel the game is getting close. Both this week and last week against the Steelers Gronk put up a
Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports
big play just as the opposing team pulled within a possession. It remains to be seen if this is a decision by the coaches in effort to keep Gronk healthy, not reveal too much playbook, or just coincidence. Whatever it may be, it will be interesting to follow throughout the year.
The last play we will look at is another great play by the future Hall of Fame quarterback. There is one small difference compared to most of his plays, it was made with his legs, not his arm. On a 3rd and 5 on there own 30 yard line Brady takes the snap in shotgun. He scans the middle of the field, finds no one open, steps forward in the pocket; seeing that he has room to run he takes off up field. Brady rumbles forward for a 15 yard gain and a big 3rd down conversion. And while he may not be the fastest person on the field like his mom says he is, this play again showed that Brady’s movement has increased in the past few years.
In an interesting side note, Brady has the same amount of rushing yards this season as Russell Wilson, one of the most athletic quarterbacks in the game. While he will never be as good as Russell running the ball, he is still willing and able to move the ball with his feet to keep defenses honest.
Looking ahead to the Patriots next game against the Seahawks it is hard to see Brady slowing down. With a bye week to prepare and perhaps the return of Dion Lewis, he will have every advantage possible heading into this big matchup. And when looking at how Drew Brees was able to drive down the field on nearly every possession, it is easy to imagine Brady doing the exact same. In conclusion expect Brady to keep up his strong season as he continues his revenge tour.