Tom Brady looked human, and the Patriots were blown out by the Chiefs last night, which has a lot of people asking “What the hell is wrong with Tom Brady?” There’s a very simple answer; They’re not giving him any protection. The offensive line just isn’t doing their job and Brady is under constant pressure, as teams have figured out the best way to beat the Patriots is to get to Brady. Brady has always been a quarterback who goes through his progressions, so the first thing he needs is time to do that. The second thing he needs is for someone to be open, whether it’s the first, second, third, or fourth option. He’s not getting either one. He doesn’t have the time to get past his second option, and even when he does, nobody is open to check it down to. Rob Gronkowski isn’t himself right now. He’s still not fully recovered from major knee surgery, so he’s not getting any separation from defenders. As the knee gets stronger and he works himself into better game shape, he’ll return to being the uncoverable beast Brady’s been accustomed to, even if he’s lost a half step. That alone will make a world of difference for Brady.
What people should be asking, is “What’s wrong with Bill Belichick?” He hasn’t made the necessary adjustments fast enough to put Brady and the Patriots in a better position to succeed. They traded for Tim Wright, a big bodied, soft-handed pass catcher, and they haven’t even utilized him yet. As crazy as it sounds, he’s the answer to their problems. The Patriots are best suited to run two TE sets for the majority of the game. It would give them the option to keep one extra TE in at all times as an extra blocker and keep defenses guessing which one it would be, preventing them from blitzing Brady at will and getting to him so easily. They’d be able to disguise their plays and pass protection by having an extra blocker on the right sometimes, the left sometimes, putting either of the two in motion sometimes, or letting both of them run routes and having the running back pick up the blitz sometimes as well. Much like Gronkowski, Wright is a big bodied TE with good hands and fleet feet, so he’d be a nightmare match up for a linebacker. The defensive attention would have to shift more towards the middle of the field to account for the tight ends, and that would free up more space for the receivers who clearly aren’t able to get open on their own right now. I can only assume that the reason Belichick has been apprehensive to make this adjustment is because Wright hasn’t been around long enough to trust with the playbook and scheme just yet, but if he waits much longer he’s going to dig the Patriots into a very deep hole. Two TE sets for the majority of the game is their answer to better pass protection and a more potent and efficient offense. They’ve done it in the past with Gronk and a murderer, they’ll eventually do it again this year with Wright. They didn’t trade mega-blocker Logan Mankins for him if they didn’t plan to use him. Non-Patriot fans, like myself, better enjoy the struggles while we can. When Belichick makes this adjustment, Brady will actually have open receivers and enough time to go through his progressions to find them. Once that happens, you’ll see the Patriots offense start to click again, and Brady will look more like the Brady we’ve seen in the past. So if you own him in fantasy land, don’t panic, the production will return. If you don’t own him, now is the time to buy low. If you’re in need of a sleeper TE, stash Wright for when they start to incorporate him into the offense regularly. Even with Gronkowski ahead of him on the depth chart, he should get plenty of looks when Belichick trusts him enough to put him on the field regularly. In addition, don’t be too surprised if they sign Richie Incognito. He won’t help you in your fantasy league, but if you’re in a bigot league, he’ll be a great addition to your team.