BOSTON (CBS) — After the Patriots came up uncharacteristically short in their comeback bid against the Pittsburgh Steelers, there were plenty of Monday morning quarterbacks questioning Tom Brady’s ability as a quarterback.
But Bill Belichick has never questioned the man he’s won five Super Bowl rings with, and isn’t about to start.
On New England’s final drive of their 17-10 defeat, Brady threw three straight incompletions from the Pittsburgh 21-yard line. His first two attempts flew out of the back of the end zone, while his fourth-down heave was knocked down as it soared over the head of Julian Edelman at the lip of the end zone. None of them really had a chance to find a New England receiver.
Many are wondering why Brady didn’t check down to running back James White on third down, with his reliable pass-catching running back open in the flat. White had plenty of running room and likely would have gotten a first down for New England. And knowing what White can do, he may have even found the end zone.
But with no timeouts, Brady reared back and went to the end zone. Belichick was asked about Brady’s decision on his Tuesday conference call, and whether or not White would have been a good option with only 20 seconds left on the clock and the Patriots unable to stop the clock.
Belichick made it crystal clear that he has Brady’s back.
“Well, again, Tom’s a very experienced quarterback in our system, very experienced playing against our opponent, Pittsburgh, last week. He has excellent judgment and decision-making abilities,” said Belichick. “When the play is called, the ball is not supposed to go to anybody unless it’s a screen pass or something like that. We’re not trying to throw it to one guy. All the questions about why don’t we throw to this guy – because there’s five guys out on the pattern and we’re going to try to do what’s best on that play.
“In Tom’s judgment, which I would certainly not second-guess his judgment, which given the game situation and the time and all of the things that went into that play, he made the best decision that he thought he could make at that time and I’m not going to second-guess it,” Belichick continued. “You can second-guess it if you want to, but nobody knows better at that time, with the ball in his hands, where he feels like he’s got the best chance. If we complete a pass and the clock’s running and how much time that’s going to take and what we have left, that’s a split-second decision that he’s got to make. I don’t think anybody will make it better than him.
“You can second-guess it all you want, but that’s the person we have doing that and we have great confidence in him doing that,” he said. “It’s a tough situation. I don’t know if there’s a great answer when you don’t have much time and you have to throw to the end zone or you maybe marginally have enough time to throw it somewhere else if you can’t get out-of-bounds. And so, the defense has a big advantage in that situation. They played it well and we weren’t able to get in the end zone.”
Brady finished the game 25 of 36 for 279 yards, a touchdown, and a costly interception on New England’s second-to-last drive. Brady took all the blame for that poor throw, which he was trying to throw away but instead fell into the hands of Pittsburgh’s Joe Haden. The Steelers got a field goal out of that miscue and a little extra breathing room on New England’s final drive.
While Brady was accountable for that throw on Sunday, Patriots offensive coordinator took the blame for the team’s final drive on his conference call on Tuesday.
“You can put that right on me. Obviously, I didn’t do well enough at the very completion of the drive. I thought we were doing really well moving the ball. We got it into the scoring zone quick enough that we didn’t have to do anything dramatic,” said McDaniels.
The Patriots had the ball at the Pittsburgh 11, but a holding penalty on Shaq Mason pushed them back 10 yards and drastically changed everything for New England.
“We had a penalty there and it put us in a situation that’s a little bit longer yardage obviously in that scenario. You know, each one of them is different. I have to do a good job, I have to do a better job than we did at the end of the drive to get that thing in the end zone and to give our team a chance to win the game,” added McDaniels. “Hopefully, I’ll learn from that one as best I can and try to apply it here going forward next week.”
The Patriots, now 9-5 and the No. 3 seed in the AFC, will look to bounce back Sunday afternoon when they welcome the Buffalo Bills to Gillette Stadium.