New England Patriots: Time to Get Worried


The title here says “Time to Get Worried”, as opposed to “Time to Get Worried?”.  That’s not a coincidence.

The New England Patriots have taken “You make your own luck” to an amazing level in their 2015 F the World Tour, and after Cincinnati’s upset loss to the Houston Texans on Monday night, the Pats are the only undefeated team in the AFC.

They’ve won a game by thirty points, and they’ve won a game by one point.  They’ve won games when they’ve rushed for triple-digit yards, and they’ve won games where Tom freaking Brady was the leading rusher.  The Patriots are sitting pretty at the top of every single NFL power ranking in existence on planet Earth. They’re at the top because a Bill Belichick-coached team does “Next Man Up” better than anyone else in the business.

So what’s the problem, right?  The Patriots aren’t undefeated because they got lucky, it’s because they made their own luck.  Preparation meeting opportunity and all that John Wooden type stuff, wouldn’t you say?

Auburn beating Alabama in the Iron Bowl on the Kick-Six play as time ran out was luck, but New England’s won and kept winning because everyone from undrafted center David Andrews to second-year corner Malcolm Butler to the Destroyer of Worlds Rob Gronkowski has stepped up and “done their job”.  That’s all there is to it.  Right?

All of that is true (especially the kick-six part).  What’s the tao that New England fans have lived by for the past 15 years?

“As long as we have Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, we always have a chance.”

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It’s as automatic as Stephen Gostkowski drilling another field goal from another zip code.  If Belichick and Brady are in the picture, the New England Patriots can never be written off, never counted out, never underestimated.

After all, that is where Brady and Belichick do their best work – whether it’s taking down the Greatest Show on Turf in one of the biggest Super Bowl upsets in history, or making the biggest fourth-quarter comeback in Super Bowl history against the best defense in the NFL against the Seattle Seahawks.

All right, let’s get to the point.

Every one of these injuries that seem to knock off a Patriot per week this season is making Tom Brady’s job more difficult.  And more dangerous.

And for every hit, knockdown, or sack that a 38-year-old Brady takes, that’s another roll of the dice that could send him to the injury list.  Or worse yet, end his season.

The Giants game should show just how real this possibility is, and not just because “The Giants have the Patriots’ number every time!”

Going into Sunday’s game, New England’s starting offensive line was (courtesy of Pats Pulpit):

Left Tackle – Cameron Fleming (23 years old)

Left Guard – Shaq Mason (22 years old)

Center – David Andrews (23 years old)

Right Guard – Josh Kline (25 years old)

Right Tackle – Bryan Stork (25 years old)

Of course, left tackle Nate Solder is out for the year with a torn bicep, Ryan Wendell is on injured reserve (with a designation to return), and tackle Sebastian Vollmer and guard Tre’ Jackson, along with Marcus Cannon, were all ruled out before the game.

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The Giants sacked Brady three times on Sunday.  They had nine sacks on the season before that.

Tom Brady’s trump card, of course, has always been his rifle-bolt-quick release after the snap. After this year’s obliteration of the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was throwing the ball in an average of 2.09 seconds.  He was also throwing 80.58% of his passes within 2.5 seconds of the snap.

And two of the Patriots’ best receiving threats have gone down for the rest of the regular season, at least.  Dion Lewis is on injured reserve and out for the year.  Julian Edelman might be back in time for the playoffs, assuming everything with his surgery and recovery goes according to plan.

Those two guys, according to ESPN Stats & Info, have put up 34% of New England’s yards from scrimmage, 35% of New England’s receiving yards, 39% of their receptions, and 44% of New England’s yards after the catch.  Julian Edelman was also playing a whopping 87.8% of the team’s offensive snaps.

That’s bad enough.  Where all these injuries get worse is that injuries on the line and receiver/running back positions make both position groups have to work harder to get the same results.

Without the downright electrifying ability to get open that Dion Lewis and Julian Edelman brought to the table in spades, Brady can’t unload the ball as quickly as he needs to in order to compensate for an offensive line that can’t provide the extra protection Brady needs to give him the time necessary to throw to guys that are taking longer to get open.

And that’s exactly what the stats from the Giants game are saying.

Behind that line, and with Julian Edelman leaving in the first quarter, TB12 took three sacks, fumbled twice, and threw one interception (and should’ve been picked twice, if not for Giants safety Landon Collins dropping one).  Brady also logged his lowest completion percentage of the season (61.9%) and his worst quarterback rating of the year (92.8).

That’s how you wind up with a fantasy football stat sheet that says Tom Brady threw for 334 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception, but New England still needed to convert on fourth down with less than 30 seconds left in the game to get Stephen Gostkowski in range to kick a 54-yard field goal to win the game by one point.  Against the 5-4 (now 5-5) New York Giants.

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If New England is going to have a shot at another title (never mind a 19-0 season), all their efforts have to be focused, now more than ever, on keeping their most valuable weapon on the field and able to do what he does better than anyone else in the NFL.

Without Tom Brady…

…well, that’s a world none of us want to live in.