Tom Brady rarely gets outplayed by the opposing quarterback. Rarely, though, is that quarterback as good as Drew Brees.
The New Orleans Saints‘ offensive leader had a perfect quarterback rating of 158.3 while Brady’s was 55.0, his second lowest of the season, in Monday night’s 38-17 win over the New England Patriots. The two-time Super Bowl MVP can bounce back from that against a familiar foe, the Miami Dolphins, on Sunday.
The mistakes of the Patriots‘ defense were more obvious, especially on Brees’ 75-yard scoring pass to Devery Henderson on a missed assignment that left the receiver wide open. But Brady contributed to the defeat, throwing two interceptions and no touchdowns and failing to reach 300 yards passing for the first time in six games.
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“From a quarterback’s standpoint, it’s missed throws and missed opportunities,” Brady said Wednesday, “and (I’ve) got to make better reads and better decisions with the ball, better communication within the offense. Those are things that typically come up.”
Brady threw an interception to Mike McKenzie on the only play of the Patriots second series. Later, his pass was low to an open Randy Moss. Then, with fourth-and-4 at the Saints‘ 10-yard line and the Patriots trailing 31-17, his pass to Moss along the left sideline fell incomplete.
In all, Brady completed 21 of 36 passes for 237 yards, his third lowest total in 11 games so far this season. He failed to throw for a touchdown for only the second time this year.
“I’m not so concerned with last week’s game at this point. I’ve moved on to Miami,” Brady said. “The mourning period is over.”
All four losses this season have come on the road. The Patriots (7-4) go into Miami (5-6) on Sunday needing a win to avoid having their lead in the AFC East drop to one game.
In their last meeting, a 27-17 Patriots win on Nov. 8, the Dolphins led 17-16 before Brady and Moss connected for a 71-yard touchdown late in the third quarter. Brady threw for 332 yards, completed 67.6 percent of his passes and outplayed Miami quarterback Chad Henne.
Brady should be even more prepared on Sunday.
“With three or four more games on tape of their defense since we’ve played them,” he said, “we understand them much better and their scheme. Even getting back into the film in the last day, it comes back pretty quick. You understand the ideas that you have for the game and for the week.”
In his first two games of the year, Brady had lower quarterback ratings than Trent Edwards of the Bills and Mark Sanchez of the Jets. The Patriots needed two touchdown passes in the last 2:06 to beat Buffalo 25-24 then lost to New York 16-9.
But in the next eight games, Brady had higher ratings in six games, tied Peyton Manning in the seventh, then did much better than Sanchez in the Jets rematch.
Against New Orleans, though, he was under frequent pressure and completed only six passes for 34 yards to Wes Welker and three for 67 yards to Moss.
“Most teams focus their coverage on those guys,” Brady said. “The Jets did, Indy does, I mean, everybody does. I think some weeks we do a better job of getting them the ball. They’re playmakers on our offense and every team tries to take away your best playmakers.”
Forcing Brady to hurry his throws is a key to stopping him.
“You have to be able get some pressure on the quarterback in those situations, but you’ve got to be careful with what you did with Tom,” Miami coach Tony Sparano said. “Tom is such an intelligent player and he gets protections lined up very well and if you’re trying to come after him and you’re trying to get pressure on him and he gets the thing lined up, you’re going to get hurt. That happened to us a little bit in” their first matchup.
Brady was on a solid streak until he faced the Saints. He rarely is asked anymore about the knee injury in last year’s opener that ended his season, or whether it affects his performance.
And he’s reluctant to answer questions about past games when he can’t do anything about them once they’re over. So he’s focusing on Miami – on beating their defense, not on how his performance will stack up against Henne’s.
“It’s a physical group and its a physical game, and playing them on six days (rest), everyone’s got to get in and try to get reinvigorated for the game,” Brady said. “As an offense, even though it’s week 11, going into our 12th game, we’re still finding our way. We’re still trying to find ways to attack the defense and get our guys in the best position possible.”