It's been more than a week since Jimmy Garoppolo led the New England offense out onto the field at Arrowhead Stadium, with living legend Tom Brady sitting morosely on the bench with an exasperated look of frustration and defeat on his face.
Getting benched in the fourth quarter is not that unusual for Tom Brady in reality. The circumstances last Monday night, however, were drastically different from all the times Brady has taken a seat after building large leads. It is difficult to recall, even, the last time Brady was benched in and because of an out-of-reach game.
During that night a historic loss for the Brady-era Patriots took place. The 41-14 blowout was the second-worst loss of Bill Belichick's and Tom Brady's career together (the worst being a 31-0 shutout loss to Buffalo a decade ago).
When asked about the defeat at his Wednesday press conference, Belichick had no answers (or simply refused to give them), as he responded to any question with "We're on to Cincinnati."
Belichick's "explanation" leaves a lot to the imagination. In a world in which Olivia Munn can be blamed for a bad game by Aaron Rodgers, anything goes. Realistically speaking, however, it is unlikely that Gisele Bundchen (Brady's supermodel wife) is at all at fault for Tom Brady's recent decline. The more likely explanations are much more obvious and sensible.
For one, Brady's receiving corps is terrible. Julian Edelman is a good receiver, but he should never be anyone's go-to guy. Edelman is at his best when a better receiver—or two—draws the bulk of the coverage, allowing Edelman one-on-one matchups. He usually wins these with his precise route-running. But with no No. 1 receiver ahead of him on the depth chart, Edelman is drawing more attention from safeties and being bottled up on routes beyond ten yards.
Meanwhile, tight end Rob Gronkowski is a constant target for over-under coverage from a combination of linebackers and safeties, even at partial health. As Gronkowski's health and usage return to tops, the New England offense should improve.
Then there is Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins, who have both been healthy scratches in multiple games this season. Thompkins was an undrafted free agent, and really any production New England has gotten out of him exceeds expectations, but Dobson, who was a second-round pick, has struggled with injuries and personality issues. Dobson's "inactive" designations apparently result from a shouting match with offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.
Rounding out the disappointing receivers, Danny Amendola has been an epic free-agency bust. The man who was supposed to be the next Wes Welker has not recorded a reception since week one.
The offensive line is a serious issue as well. Brady is taking more hits and pressure than ever this year. Tackles Nate Solder and Sebastian Vollmer have been routinely beat by edge-rushers, while the interior has been woefully manned by a hodgepodge of inept and clueless youngsters like Jordan Devey and Bryan Stork. In retrospect, trading all-pro guard Logan Mankins looks like a terrible transaction on New England's part.
Brady's horrific performance in 2014 cannot be entirely blamed on his colleagues. Brady himself is inaccurate, he is tentative and jumpy in the pocket, and his throws have become decidedly less powerful. At times, it looks like Brady is shooting a three-pointer rather than chucking a deep ball. He does not look like himself.
Earlier in the season, Brady said "When I suck, I'll retire" and that he didn't plan on sucking (retiring) anytime soon.
Things do not always go according to plan. Brady, in his own word, sucks this season, and things are not going to get any easier this weekend against Cincinnati's stout defense.
Thankfully, both Brady and the Pats bounced back during the last game against the Cincinnati Bengals. In a night that New England dominated on the field, achieving a 43-17 victory, Brady completed 22 out of his 35 passes for 292 yards and also two touchdowns.
With Brady's abilities, he could turn the season and his performance around at any time, but if he wants to end his career gracefully, and not watching from the bench with a clipboard in hand, it needs to happen soon. He needs to continue putting up performances like his last one.
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