Tom Brady Deserves Some of the Blame for New England Patriots' Woes

Gianni VerschuerenFeatured ColumnistOctober 22, 2012

We still love you, Tom.
We still love you, Tom.Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

Don't worry Patriot Nation, you shouldn't be panicking just yet.

After a Week 7 win over the New York Jets, the New England Patriots lead the AFC East with a record of 4-3.

Those four wins include divisional bouts with the Jets and the Buffalo Bills, two teams headed into Week 8 with more questions than answers. And while the Miami Dolphins haven't been as poor as many analysts predicted, they don't seem ready to compete with New England for the AFC East crown.

New England's three losses have been by a combined four points, and only one of those losses was suffered at the hands of a team in direct contention with the Patriots for the right to play in the AFC playoffs.

That's where the good news stops.

New England hasn't been the dominant force we've come to expect, and there's plenty of blame to go around. Some fans like to point at Josh McDaniels and his predictable play-calling. The secondary takes a lot of heat, and rightly so. The offensive line, which gave a terrible showing during the preseason, has done a surprisingly good job opening up holes for the running game and in pass protection, but it's still not free of all guilt.

Somehow, Tom Brady's name is hardly mentioned.

Brady is not having a bad season. He's adjusting to a new offense and a new target in Brandon Lloyd, and his numbers have been good. In seven games, he has thrown for 2,104 yards, 12 touchdowns and only three interceptions. His completion percentage is a respectable 65.3 percent and he's averaging 7.38 yards per attempt.

Brady's problems aren't in his numbers; they can be seen in another facet of his game, one that has been very much on display this season.

Tom Brady is streaky.

Against the Jets, Brady's streaky side was very clear. He tore apart the Jets' secondary on three vintage Brady drives, but looked vulnerable during the others. He threw a very bad back-footed pass that should have been intercepted by Antonio Cromartie, while the Patriots were still up by three.

Those are not the kind of mistakes we have come to expect from Tom.

One week earlier, against the Seattle Seahawks, we saw the same thing. Tom Brady sliced apart one of the top defenses in the league during the first half, on three beautiful drives.

On the last play of the half, he made a crucial mistake by throwing the ball to no one in the end zone. Intentional grounding, 10-second runoff and no points. In the second half, New England's offense only managed two field goals, two interceptions and two punts.

The interception Brady threw to Richard Sherman was another mistake he usually avoids. Leading the game, Sherman had perfect coverage on Deion Branch, yet Brady still threw it (and underthrew it, making it even easier on Sherman).

You can go back to every game the Patriots have played this season and see the same pattern: three or four excellent drives, that make you feel like New England is finally turning the corner, and then nothing. Against Buffalo, the nothing came in the first half and Brady's brilliance showed in the second, but the pattern remained the same.

You could say that it is impossible for a quarterback to be perfect all the time, and that Brady is only human, and you would be absolutely right. Except, Brady has been near perfect for so long.

Brady is the victim of his own success.

Patriot Nation has gotten used to Brady playing at a level that other quarterbacks can only dream of and that's exactly why his current struggles are so obvious.

Josh McDaniels might have forgotten that Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez were the team's best deep threats last year, the secondary might be absolutely horrible, the pass rush might be inconsistent and Brandon Lloyd might be dropping more balls than I can count; it doesn't matter. Brady will come through for us in the end.

That is the mindset New England's fans have always had and that is what this team is built around. Tom Brady will play out of his mind when the team is struggling and he will find a way to win.

We saw glimpses of that ability last night, when he drove the Patriots down the field for the game-tying field goal and the overtime win. Brady elevated his play, and the defense fed off of that and found a way to stop the Jets.

But against teams like the Houston Texans and the Baltimore Ravens, who have the firepower to put away any team that makes too many mistakes, the Patriots will need that kind of performance from Tom Brady for the full 60 minutes.

Week 7 is no time to start panicking, but it is not too early to start drawing conclusions. You can talk about the defense and Josh McDaniels all you want, this team will stand or fall by Tom Brady.

And once Week 17 is in the books, New England will need Brady at his finest to reach the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, not the Tom Brady we've seen so far.