Tom Brady is still good enough to win the Patriots a seventh Super Bowl. Anyone who doesnt think so is looking at his seemingly un-GOAT-like 2019 season the wrong way.
New England's quarterback at age 42 is not playing like an old, washed-up version of himself. In fact, what we're seeing from him now resembles a much younger version of Brady, the player who won three rings and two Super Bowl MVPs before he turned 28.
NFL POWER RANKINGS:
New England slips after loss in Houston
Brady's worst season in recent memory came in 2013, when he completed 60.5 percent of his passes and rated 87.3 in passing efficiency with a then career-low QBR of 62.1 while throwing for only 6.9 yards per attempt. His totals that year were 380 completions on 628 attempts, 4,343 yards passing with 25 touchdowns to 11 interceptions.
Fast-forward to 2019: Brady is completing 61.1 percent of his passes, rating 88.2 in passing efficiency with a new career-low QBR of 52.1. He is on pace for 396 completions on a career- and league-high 648 attempts, 4,357 yards passing with 24 TDs to 8 INTs. Those full regular-season numbers of the past and projected regular-season numbers of the present are eerily simliar.
In the playoffs after the 2013 season, the Patriots got away with a below-average Brady in a rout of the Colts in the divisional round becuase of a dominant running game. But they lost to the Broncos in the AFC championship game when the QB couldn't deliver enough big pass plays.
The numbers suggest Brady is back at or below that level, which might seem to spell doom for the Patriots and their effort to win a fourth Super Bowl in six seasons. As was the case in 2013, Julian Edelman is New England's clear-cut top wide receiver with no reliable outside deep threat at the position. The Patriots also don't have Rob Gronkowski, who wasn't healthy for most of the 2013 season, incuding the playoffs.
But back then, the Patriots were an elite rushing team with a bottom-barrel defense. They also had atrocious pass protection, and Brady took a career-high 40 sacks that season. In 2019, the Patriots haven't been a good rushing team, but their defense has been mostly elite. Their offensive line has been better, but it has struggled in run blocking without center David Andrews and without help from fullback James Develin and Gronkowski.
Sunday night's loss to the Texans prompted some to wonder whether Brady has lost it this season. Yet his performance (24-of-47, 326 yards, 3 TDs, INT, 85.9 passer rating, 6.9 yards per attempt) was Brady's best in a month. Which makes sense considering he finally had his full complement of linemen, backs and receivers.
So while many are on Brady for making one mistake and not enough big plays in Houston, the bad news for the rest of the league is that big second half in Week 13 could end up being a much-needed springboard for New England's offense going into December and January.
Sunday night's game showed that Brady in 2019 is more like the Brady of 2003 and not 2013. In 2003, of course, Patriots were in peak form for their second Super Bowl win in their first three-ring dynasty. Brady's numbers then, before QBR existed: 317 completions on 527 attempts, 3,620 yards, 23 TDs, 12 INTs, 60.2 completion percentage, 6.9 yards per attempt and a 85.9 passer rating.
You also remember how that season ended, right? Via a high volume of passing in Super Bowl 38, Brady made sure the Patriots didn't lose to the Panthers by completing 32-of-58 passes for 354 yards, 3 TDs and an INT in a 32-29 victory.
The Patriots in 2003, by the way, were not a good rushing team and had a top-five defense. They had no dominant wide receiver, with Troy Brown and Deion Branch as the pair of go-to guys. Overall, with Phillip Dorsett, Mohamed Sanu and Jakobi Meyers, Brady's wideouts in 2019 have a similiar committee feel.
James White remains best version of Kevin Faulk as Brady's primary receiving back. That team came before Randy Moss, and this team comes after Josh Gordon and, albeit briefly, Antonio Brown. As was the case for the pre-Gronk Patriots, the post-Gronk Patriots have seen sporadic tight end production.
Brady in 2003
Brady in 2019 (projected)
3,620 passing yards
4,357 passing yards
60.2 comp. %
61.1 comp. %
85.9 passer rating
88.2 passer rating
The Patriots are rolling with their current crew around Brady because they can. No team is better at letting its offensive identity adjust and evolve over the course of a season, and New England has the advantage of Brady being the maestro. If his orchestera doesn't sound right, he is not afraid to throw his baton and challenge his teammates. It might be Josh McDaniels' offense, but after all these years, with the quarteback being the constant, it really is Brady's system.
After fielding an elite rushing attack last season, the Patriots did not expect to struggle in 2019 with Sony Michel and Rex Burkhead. Their Gordon and Brown projects failed, too. Injuries and other factors have thrown wrenches into their plans, so the Patriots have done what they do: Find different guys to do the job.
Some examples are their trading for Sanu and trusting more in Meyers. And at some point, you know rookie first-round wide receiver N'Keal Harry will be a bigger ace in the hole.
The Patriots could have been concerned had they lost to the Texans, a team with a bad overall defense, thanks to listless offense. Instead, much to the chagrin of other AFC hopefuls like New England's next opponent in Kansas City, Brady appeared to get his groove back with everyone finally tuned into him.
If the Patirots don't win another Super Bowl, this Brady will not be the reason.
This Brady actually is the only the reason they have a chance to overcome their offensive struggles.