By Matt Dolloff, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Everyone’s favorite two-word phrase (outside of New England, anyway) came home to roost on Sunday, as noted “system quarterback” Tom Brady finally made his return to the Patriots lineup to face the Cleveland Browns. And as anyone with enough brain cells to have a basic understanding of football realized, the Patriots offense looks a lot better with Brady under center than it did with rookie Jacoby Brissett.
When the Patriots rolled out to a 3-0 start after dismantling the Houston Texans with Brissett at quarterback, that made confused and conflicted non-Patriots fans question Brady’s value to the offense. Clearly, Bill Belichick can just stick any QB in there and win, right? Never mind the college-style offense, 108 passing yards, and seven punts. Brissett, Brady … Same exact thing.
If the Patriots’ immense struggles on offense with Brissett against the Buffalo Bills in Week 4 didn’t confirm how much the offense needed Brady to get back to its usual otherworldly level, Brady himself put the whole conversation to rest after shredding the Browns for 406 yards and three touchdowns – and that was rusty Brady, according to him.
That obviously wasn’t going to change the minds of the mouth-breathers out there digging for any possible way to discredit what the Patriots do on offense when they have Brady making throws and calling plays at the line of scrimmage. So let’s go over all those simple, rudimentary plays that clearly any quarterback could have done …
1. Martellus Bennett’s first touchdown. Marty was wide open! How hard can that play be? Obviously any schmo could stand back there, keep his eyes straight ahead, look off the safeties and linebackers, and zip that throw to the right while barely even looking. Surely Brissett would have fooled the middle of the Browns defense just as easily.
2. The deep ball to Chris Hogan down the right side. It’s not easy for a quarterback to side-step pressure to find open space in the pocket then deliver a 40-plus-yard go route to a receiver in stride … right? Wrong! Clearly, the system was designed for the open space to appear exactly where it did. You saw all those perfectly accurate deep balls Brissett threw, right? System.
3. Martellus Bennett’s second touchdown. This was delivered with perfect timing into an incredibly tight window. But obviously, they can just throw Charlie Whitehurst in there and get the same result, as evidenced by all those perfect slant passes he threw on Sunday.
4. This first down catch by Chris Hogan. What could be so hard about a sideways pass to a wide-open receiver? Can’t tell me Rex Grossman couldn’t step to the line, fake a QB sneak, step back, identify the mike, signal to his receivers, move everyone on the defense closer to the line, then catch everyone sleeping on the open receiver who gets the easy first down. Any jabroni can diagnose a play like that.
5. Martellus Bennett’s third touchdown. This play came off a play-action fake that was preceded by two run plays. Seriously guys, getting the whole defense to bite on the fake to the right side is something any QB worth his salt can pull off. And don’t even get me started on the perfect rainbow pass over the defender’s head and into the tight end’s waiting arms. SYSTEM!
6. Brady’s touch-pass to Rob Gronkowski off his back foot. Please. Throw Whitehurst in there and he’d do the same thing throwing off his back foot. And Gronk does all the work anyway after he makes the catch. Just Belichick’s system making Brady look decent, yet again.
Surely you could pore over this game and find countless other examples of how the Patriots system could allow any quarterback to throw for 400-plus and three touchdowns. Leave your own examples in the comments.
Matt Dolloff is a writer for CBSBostonSports.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect that of CBS or 98.5 The Sports Hub. Have a news tip or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.