By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — There are a million and one reasons why Tom Brady will soon have a creepy gilded bust to call his own in Canton, and each particular trait could inspire its own novel. For the purpose of this exercise though, we’re going to focus solely on the quarterback’s pocket mobility, which may be his single greatest attribute.
Sure, the arm has been useful. The football IQ is up there, too. But there have been countless quarterbacks to go through the league with better arms than Brady’s, and knowing what to do is only half the battle. Actually doing it with consistency — for 20 years, no less — is the part that requires something more.
In Brady’s case, that something more comes with his ability to stand tall in the pocket, eyes locked downfield as he progresses through is reads, all while feeling and seeing pressure from the corner of his eye. A subtle step up in the pocket is oftentimes all he needs to find the perfect amount of time and space to deliver a deadly pass.
It was very much on display on his second touchdown pass on Sunday, when Myles Garrett — a certified big, scary man — rushed off the offense’s right side 1-on-1 against Marcus Cannon. Brady took a shotgun snap and looked over the middle and to his left, where it looked like he either wanted to hit Jakobi Meyers on a 10-yard curl or James White on a wheel route. But, with Garrett whizzing toward his ear hole, Brady saw both routes were well covered.
So Brady subtly stepped up in the pocket, matadoring Garrett and Cannon in the process, before sliding out to open space.
Julian Edelman, who shares a brain with Brady, ran with him, and it didn’t take long for the duo to have their second touchdown connection of the evening.
(Don’t underestimate the arm strength there on the 42-year-old throws on the run, either.)
It wasn’t entirely dissimilar to the ease with which Brady moved in the pocket just six days prior, on Monday Night Football against the Jets. His ability to feel pressure off the right side led him to step up in the pocket and deliver a downfield strike.
When you remember Tom Brady 50 years from now (if the world doesn’t end by then), this is how you should remember him. He’s done this roughly one million times, driving opposing defenses and coaches crazy for a 20-year period of relentless domination.
This ability is something that’s almost innate. It surely can’t be taught, and it can’t be simply replicated. You surely know this by now, but you are still getting weekly reminders that this Brady is a special, special talent who is a delight to watch (unless you are a massive grump who enjoys nothing).
All right, kiddos. Patriots 27, Browns 13. Leftover Thoughts time.
–One more note on Brady (just kidding, there will be many more), but it’s worth reiterating that NOBODY HAS EVER DONE THIS BEFORE. When he threw that second touchdown to his good pal Jules, the press box announcement said Brady set a new record for TD passes by a 42-year-old. That was true, but also not true.
Yes, Warren Moon threw 11 touchdowns in 1998, but he didn’t turn 42 years old until Nov. 18 of that season. He played exactly one game as a 42-year-old. Second-year QB Jon Kitna took over the reins after that week.
And really, Moon’s “age 42 season” was nowhere close to what Brady is doing now.
Warren Moon, 1998, “Age 42”
10 games, 4-6 record
6.3 yards per attempt, 163.2 yards per game
11 TDs, 8 INTs
76.6 passer rating
Tom Brady, 2019, Actually 42 Years Old
8 games, 8-0 record
7.3 yards per attempt, 281.4 yards per game
13 TDs, 4 INTs
95.0 passer rating
Maybe instead of breathlessly speculating on his future with the dumbest imaginable “reports,” football folks could take a minute to REALIZE THAT THEY ARE WITNESSING SOMETHING THAT HAS NEVER HAPPENED BEFORE AND WILL NEVER HAPPEN AGAIN.
Sorry for yelling. (No I’m not.)
–Baker Mayfield said after the game that his offense did a good job of handling the Patriots’ blitz packages. Mayfield was also sacked five times and threw an interception to a defensive tackle in the backfield. It was an interesting summary from the second-year QB, who became just the latest first- or second-year starter to get swallowed up by Bill Belichick in Foxboro.
It wasn’t a dreadful game overall for the QB, but it wasn’t a good one, either. There was a sign early on that perhaps Mayfield would not be lighting it up. That sign? Look at the man’s feet on his first throw of the game.
Those are some ecstatic feet right there.
Now granted, the wall of human beings rushing toward him upped the difficulty level, but he still missed an open Jarvis Landry at the line to gain on that particular pass.
It wouldn’t have counted had it been a good pass, because the Browns are the worst-coached team in football and had an ineligible man downfield. But still, those jumpy piggies and the accompanying errant throw were a sign that Mayfield wasn’t ready to slay the beast.
–The shovel pass to Lawrence Guy’s facemask also delivered that message, albeit a bit more bluntly.
Es gibt Dinge, die sieht man nicht alle Tage:
Baker Mayfield auf Lawrence Guy
— René Bugner (Rainbowcave) (@RNBWCV) October 27, 2019
–Oh, are we talking Tom Brady again? My oh me, I suppose I could spotlight another pass.
After a four-and-out to start the game, the offense was at risk of going three-and-out on possession No. 2. Then Brady did this on third-and-6:
What the flippin heck, man?
That looked like a pass straight off the grass practice fields in July, but Brady and Phillip Dorsett just nonchalantly busted it out during a monsoon in Week 8 against an NFL defense. That’s rich.
Later in that drive, on a fourth-and-7, Brady reared back and fired this bullet into a rapidly closing tight window:
He’s a good quarterback. That’s all I’m sayin’!
–The defense gave up a touchdown. It was nothing short of shocking. It came when Dont’a Hightower got stuck in coverage on Demetrius Harris. Hightower has made better plays.
Nevertheless, this was just the fourth touchdown scored by opposing offenses through eight games. Through half of a football season. Four touchdowns.
That is, to put it mildly, ABSURD. And the fact that the defense has now scored four touchdowns of its own (thanks to Hightower), it’s truly mind-boggling at how dominant this defense is.
If we’re doing the points comparison thing with the 2000 Ravens (who set an NFL record with just 165 total points allowed in a season), then lookie here:
Total Points Allowed Through 8 Games
2019 Patriots: 61 points
2000 Ravens: 89 points
Over their final eight games, the Ravens got stronger, allowing 76 total points and holding opponents to seven points or less in five games. Whether the 2019 Patriots can finish with fewer points allowed (and that’s including three touchdowns allowed by the offense and special teams) is not exactly important as the fact that they will assuredly be right up there with the best defenses of all time in an era when playing defense is almost illegal.
(The Ravens faced a cavalcade of absolute bums at QB that year, too, so shut up about that. They faced the likes of Ryan Leaf, Akili Smith, Troy Aikman in his worst and final season, Vinny Testaverde in a year when he led the NFL with 25 INTs, Jake Plummer, Kordell Stewart, and a Doug Pederson/Spergon Wynn duo. And that was just in the second half of the season alone. So, again, kindly, close your lips with the quality of competition thing.)
–The state of the Patriots’ defense can be seen quickly in two drops. One counted, one did not, but in both cases, the misery was the same.
The real drop came from Stephon Gilmore, who couldn’t hold on to this easy interception:
Gilmore beefed it, and then he went down in a heap for about 20 seconds as if he was injured. He was not injured physically. But emotionally, he was devastated.
The other drop didn’t count, but the reaction was much the same.
Mayfield escaped the pressure of a somersaulting Jamie Collins but eventually had to throw a ball away. That pass headed up the Patriots’ sideline and directly to Kyle Van Noy. But Van Noy couldn’t make the catch, and he reacted almost exactly like George Michael Bluth.
Instead of lying there next to his Jansport, though, Van Noy immediately started doing push-ups. This team — even the defense — takes drops seriously.
Those two reactions tell you all you need to know about the current state of the Patriots’ defense. A smart play to break up a pass on third down in the fourth quarter is no reason to celebrate; it should have been a pick. A throwaway to the bench offers an opportunity to hone some skills. Forget about no days off, this defense takes no plays off. (Ha ha, good one, pal!)
–If we’re picking out problems with the Patriots, we’ve got the run game, we’ve got the kicking game, and we’ve got the red zone offense. The first two are kind of straightforward, so I’d like to explore the last one a little.
For instance, on a first-and-goal from the 7-yard line, the Patriots ran a play with five receivers running routes; none of them ran into the end zone:
It looked like the play was designed for Brady to hit Mohamed Sanu on a return route, giving the receiver a chance to run for the touchdown. But Sanu fell down. Brady still managed to hit Edelman for a 5-yard gain because those two guys are freaks.
Second down: Sony Michel ran into a wall of humans on a play that was just begging for play-action to Ben Watson:
Third-and-goal: Not even sure what to make of this mess. A three-man rush gets home against Brady, Myles Garrett’s helmet flies off, Sanu never gets off the line, Edelman’s bracketed, Brady almost throws his third end zone/goal line pick of the season:
The Patriots scored touchdowns on just two of their six red zone visits on Sunday. They’re scoring touchdowns on just 50 percent of their red zone trips this year, which has them tied for 22nd in the NFL.
Eventually, they will face some real opponents in some real games, and that kind of lack of execution can really start to sing in such scenarios.
–For as bad as the run game was (79 on 27 attempts, yuck), Sony Michel did convert a critical third-and-1 that led to the second Edelman touchdown.
On a third-and-1 at the Cleveland 16-yard line, Sheldon Richardson fell into the Patriots’ backfield and got a big mitt on Michel’s leg. Michel fell to the turf, but he propped himself up with his hand and chugged forward to give the Patriots a fresh set of downs.
Brady threw a touchdown to Edelman on the very next play.
Michel obviously wasn’t the best Georgia running back on the field on Sunday, but that play was massive.
(It also came after the 59-yard screen to James White, and a 9-yard screen to Rex Burkhead. So it’s not as if the running game was useless.)
–The Patriots have only been in one close game thus far, so any and all officiating chatter we’ve had has basically been framed as, “It didn’t matter this time, BUT … in a close game, maybe it would have.” In this case, we’ve got Tony Corrente’s officiating crew not being in position for a play to be run after Brady and Sanu connected for a 4-yard gain on a fourth-and-4 in the second quarter.
I just busted out the stopwatch while watching the broadcast, and 25 seconds passed from the moment Sanu was tackled until the Patriots ran their hurry-up snap to try to prevent Cleveland from challenging. That should be enough time for an officiating crew to get back into position after a 4-yard pass.
From the moment the ball was spotted and Corrente signaled for a first down until the Patriots snapped the ball, 17 seconds elapsed. That is enough time for officials to get to their spots. The fact that they did not … well, again, in a close game where things matter, that could be the difference of winning or losing.
Why are the world-class athletes forced to wait around for the officials to waddle to their spots on the field? Chop chop, gentlemen.
–Of course, this only worked to benefit the Patriots, because Freddie Kitchens doesn’t exactly know why or when or how to use his coach’s challenges. Goodness gracious.
The Sanu catch had a 0.0 percent chance of getting overturned. The offensive pass interference penalty had less than a 0.0 percent chance of getting overturned. Yet Freddie let his freak flag fly by hurling that red bag with reckless abandon, losing both challenges.
And fascinatingly enough, it came back to bite him. While it’s unknown if this drop by Edelman might have been ruled a catch and a fumble if the ruling had been challenged …
… the fact is we will never know. Because the Fred man was out of challenges. But in the post-Jesse James world of NFL catch rules, Kitchens might have actually had a chance to win a challenge there. Alas.
–Cleveland leads the NFL with 70 penalties called against them, despite playing just seven games. Quick math: That’s 10 per game. They’ve also had 16 penalties called against them declined (tied for most in the NFL), plus two penalties that were offset by penalties on the opponents. In total, that’s 88 penalties called against Cleveland in seven games.
When asked about penalties after the loss, Kitchens said he … doesn’t coach penalties?
“I don’t coach penalties. I’m not answering questions about penalties,” the “NFL head coach” said. “I’ve never once, in 20 years of coaching, coached somebody to take a penalty. Except in a situation, where it would help you clock-wise, clock management-wise. So, I don’t know, I don’t know.”
Clearly, the man does not know.
(The Browns also had to burn a timeout in the first quarter when they had 10 men on the field to play defense on a fourth down. Whoopsies.)
–The penalties clearly killed them, too. The worst was Rashard Higgins committing OPI on a 26-yard catch to convert a third-and-1 in the fourth quarter. It forced the Browns into a third-and-11, on which Mayfield overthrew Beckham by about a mile.
The Browns then … sent the punt unit onto the field … only for them to take a delay of game … and then get off the field … so that Kitchens could … send the offense onto the field to try to convert a fourth-and-16 from their own 19-yard line.
Mayfield, stunningly, was sacked on the play, leading to a turnover on downs.
If you saw this and thought it looked like Kitchens had no idea what he was doing, well, allow him to explain.
“I didn’t want to use the timeout and I wanted to go for it,” Kitchens said of the intentional delay of game penalty. “We had half of our guys running off, half of our guys running on and I wasn’t giving up right then by punting the ball to them. The only chance that we had was to convert for a [first] down and then we didn’t. … I was still trying to win the game.”
Trying to win the game by turning a fourth-and-11 into a fourth-and-16 for your struggling offense.
Bill Belichick could have coached this entire game with his back facing the field and still won by two touchdowns.
–Related: I think this was a missed case of pass interference. I think.
Perhaps the officials hadn’t gotten to their proper positions on that one.
–Ohhhhh what’s that? You want one more Brady throw?
Well, fine. Here you go.
–A couple of weeks ago, I said that Jakobi Meyers made the single most important offensive play of the game against the Giants. While his contribution this week was not necessarily as significant, it was nevertheless a fair indication of the rapport he continues to build with Brady.
This time, it came on a third-and-3 from the Cleveland 44-yard line, with the Patriots leading 24-10 with 10:28 left in the fourth quarter. Considering the two-touchdown lead, and the fact that Cleveland had just one timeout, a first-down pickup in this scenario would almost ice the game. Not technically, but close enough.
And on this play, Meyers was split out wide left before motioning toward the line to form somewhat of a stack formation behind Edelman and Watson. Despite Cleveland dropping eight men into coverage, the play design sprung Meyers wide open on a 5-yard out.
Brady looked at Meyers and only Meyers to complete the pass and pick up the first down.
That was Meyers’ lone reception on two targets (the other was a semi-throwaway), and the fact that Brady looked to the undrafted rookie in that spot is yet another good sign.
–Speaking of making the most of his one chance, Ben Watson made a ridiculous catch on his lone target of the evening. That it came three hours deep into a rainy, chilly day made it all the more impressive.
When I looked at all of Watson’s big plays last year, this was exactly what he brought to the table for the Saints. Even at age 38, it appears as though the ball skills and strength are still very much intact.
— New England Patriots (@Patriots) October 27, 2019
Watson didn’t take the credit for that catch, though.
“Everyone will say that was a good catch, but it was a good throw. [Brady] put it in a spot where only I could get to it,” Watson explained. “Whenever you are in man and you are going down the seam like that, that is the place you can put it. He is the best at putting it in a great way for the receiver to get to it. When I saw it up there I knew I had a chance at it. The coverage was coming from the inside and followed me down the seam. You either go over the top or the back shoulder.”
–There were some … people from the Cleveland organization behind me in the press box. I don’t know who they were or what their job titles were or anything of the sort. But I do know that when Shilique Calhoun went down with an injury after a fourth-quarter sack (credited to Kyle Van Noy), the two … people from Cleveland conversed and said, “Their guy got hurt. Joke’s on them!”
The Cleveland Browns.
–Speaking of Calhoun, I’ve got a take, and it’s this: He is taller and larger than Bill Belichick:
Just my politics!
–Play of the game:
Hell yeah, baby!
–Choose your fighter:
While everyone’s latching on to the “Boogeymen” thing, it might be time to throw a nickname at that trio. I don’t have any suggestions, I just know that it is a frightening image for the rest of the NFL to contemplate here at the season’s midway point.
Bill Belichick is 67 years old and is having one of the greatest season of his Hall of Fame coaching career. His 32-year-old son and 33-year-old former defensive captain are working by his side, ensuring that the Belichick reign may continue for years to come.
–Next up: Lamar Jackson, John Harbaugh, and the 5-2 Baltimore Ravens. On the one hand, they’re good. On the other hand, they lost 40-25 at home against … Cleveland. We’ll see how the Patriots fare against a “good” team come Sunday night.
For now, they’re 8-0, with a point differential of plus-189. No matter what your expectations were for this team in August, you could not have possibly been expecting this.