Tom Brady, Patriots Are 3-0, but Is That Good Enough?

Mike Freeman@@mikefreemanNFLNFL National Lead WriterSeptember 22, 2013

As the story goes, quarterback Tom Brady spent a lot of time on his iPhone, contacting former wide receivers to come to the New England Patriots.

He called and texted Brandon Lloyd, who is no longer in football, and Deion Branch, who played wide receiver millions of years before that comet wiped out the dinosaurs. 

Deion Branch and Brandon Lloyd...good God. That's how desperate Brady is. Using his precious unlimited minutes to contact a has-been and a fossil. Next thing you know, Brady will text her about joining the team.

"No, I haven’t talked to those guys in a while," Brady told reporters after New England beat visiting Tampa Bay, 23-3, on Sunday. "I love both of them. They’re good friends and great teammates, but I haven’t talked to either of them in a while."

Notice, Brady said he hasn't talked to them, but the story said Brady called and texted them. The report came from Mike Silver and Ian Rapoport of NFL Media (via NFL Network's Gregg Rosenthal). 

There are two ways to look at the Patriots, one of the true surprise teams in the league. And yes, they are a surprise team. That defense is mediocre, the receiving corps was hired out of a Whole Foods parking lot, one star tight end has been hurt, and the other is in Shawshank.

Aaron Dobson led the Patriots in receptions and receiving yards on Sunday.
Aaron Dobson led the Patriots in receptions and receiving yards on Sunday.Winslow Townson/Getty Images

The first way is to admire Brady—not for his texting, but for his play. The Patriots are 3-0 because Brady has continued his trend of turning trash into treasure.

Randy Moss was an exception, and, to some degree, so was Wes Welker, but most of Brady's wide receivers have been either pedestrian or putrid (Rob Gronkowski has been terrific, as was Aaron Hernandez, but Gronk has spent as much time hurt as he has being a star). That Brady trend of making his wideouts better has continued this season in a manner we've never seen.

On Sunday, Aaron Dobson and Julian Edelman each had seven catches. Kenbrell Thompkins had three (two for touchdowns). A different wide receiver has led the Patriots in receiving yards in each of their three games.

The arrogance of the Patriots (and I use that word in a positive way) has caught up with New England. They've always thought Brady could turn any receiver into Jerry Rice. Most of the time, that's been the case. Not this year. As a result, Brady's greatness has been stretched thin.

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FEBRUARY 05:  Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots chats with his wife Gisele Bundchen speak in the press conference area after the Patriots lost 21-17 against the New York Giants during Super Bowl XLVI at Lucas Oil Stadium on Febr
Rob Carr/Getty Images

Some people love to hate Brady. He's handsome, married to a model and filthy rich—what's there to hate?

But if you love football, if you like to watch brilliant quarterback play, you have to admire what he's done. He hasn't been perfect, and we've seen Brady miss some throws that in the past he would have never missed, but there's been an almost heroic quality to him this season.

That word is not used lightly, and it's used in a strictly sports sense, but this is easily the most undermanned we've seen the Patriots under Brady, and here they are again, undefeated in three games for just the fourth time in the Brady era. The last two times they went 3-0, the franchise made Super Bowls.

I admire Brady for this. You go ahead and smirk and make your jokes about how he's a pretty boy and flame away with UGG-boot jokes. Talk about his hair or his model shoots. He has shown more grittiness—yes, grittiness—this year than he ever has.

Now, you knew there was a but coming, right?

What Brady's doing simply isn't sustainable. These receivers just aren't that good. They were better on Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but it was the freaking Buccaneers. The Buccaneers are, once again, the "Yuckaneers." Brady used to destroy teams like the Yuckaneers, 50-10.

The Patriots have beaten Buffalo, the New York Jets and Tampa. That's not exactly Thor, the Hulk and Captain America. The schedule will get tougher, and those crappy receivers will get blanketed. This will put more pressure on Brady, and as superhuman as Brady is at times, not even Brady can carry this particular edition of the Patriots for the entire season.

Naturally, the Patriots disagree with all of this. They think this offense will continue to get better, and the receivers will evolve. They believe the entire team will elevate its play.

Brady was asked after the game if it is important for a young group of receivers to get reps while the more experienced players recover from injuries:

Yeah, fortunately all of those guys—[Zach] Sudfeld, the three rookie receivers—have all been out there at practice every day throughout the spring and the summer. I know Josh [Boyce] missed some in the spring, but I’ve thrown a lot of balls to those guys.

Julian Edelman has 27 receptions on the season.
Julian Edelman has 27 receptions on the season.Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

We've spent a lot of time talking about offensive football and situational football. We've done a pretty good job in situational football, which has really helped us.

The plays before the end of the half, the drive at the end of the Buffalo game, the third-down play that we made at the end of last week against the Jets where Julian [Edelman] caught the ball at the end of the route. Those are big plays. They’re little things, but they’re big things. That's a big reason why we're 3-0.

Patriots defensive lineman Vince Wilfork told the media after the game that he's very optimistic:

There’s a lot of football left to play. I think we can be as good as we want to be, as long as we continue to get better as a team.

I think that’s the biggest thing for us right now: Individually raise our level of play and just take every day as it comes. If we attack each week like that, then we’ll be OK. This week will be another challenge going down to Atlanta. So every week is different, but our goal is going to be the same and that’s to get better each week.

The Patriots need offensive weapons. They simply don't have any, and you don't know what Gronk might be when he returns. Or how long Danny Amendola will last.

Brady might resume his calling, er, texting, to former receivers—Raymond Berry next? Unfortunately for him, Welker isn't taking his calls right now.

Peyton Manning has confiscated his phone.

All quotes obtained from transcripts released by the Patriots.


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