Despite entering Sunday’s contest with an impressive 6-2 record and quality wins over the New Orleans Saints and Miami Dolphins, numerous question marks lingered about the Patriots’ offensive inefficiency.
In the midst of arguably the worst statistical season of Tom Brady’s career, much had been made about New England’s entirely rebuilt receiving core, and whether or not it had the weapons to challenge the better teams in the AFC. For the first time in his illustrious career, people began to question whether Brady’s advanced age (35) was beginning to show signs on the field. Uncharacteristic accuracy issues, especially while attempting to throw the ball deep downfield, were evident in Brady’s modest statistics.
Having thrown for just two touchdowns in his previous four games, Brady exploded Sunday for season-highs of 432 yards passing and four touchdowns. Entering Sunday’s game against the 2nd-ranked passing defense in football, Brady had thrown for just 9 touchdowns so far this season.
After last Sunday’s division win over the visiting Dolphins, pictures surfaced on social media that appeared to show significant swelling on Brady’s right throwing hand. Numerous experts questioned whether an injury earlier in the game was responsible for his struggles throwing outside the numbers.
Given his stellar performance Sunday night, questions about Brady’s health can officially be put to rest.
According to Doug Clawson of ESPN Stats and Information, each of Brady’s four touchdown passes Sunday were from at least 15 yards out. He finished the game going 8 of 12 from this distance; good for just under 67 percent completion. Before Sunday’s contest, he was the 29th most efficient passer from 15 yards or more, at just over 30 percent.
For large stretches of the season, this team has failed to establish any sort of offensive identity. Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels has abandoned the running game when it hasn’t gone smoothly, and the team’s ability to produce touchdowns in the red-zone has been anemic. On Sunday, Brady’s top three receiving targets- Danny Amendola, Aaron Dobson, and Rob Gronkowski all went for over 100 yards receiving and at least one touchdown. Add in Stevan Ridley’s impressive 115-yard performance on the ground, and you get a remarkably balanced offensive effort.
The return of Rob Gronkowski cannot be understated. In just his second game back after mending both forearm and back surgeries, he looked like the Gronk of old. His electrifying 9-catch performance matched a career best.
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