On Sunday, the New England Patriots beat the Dallas Cowboys to clinch their 17th consecutive double-digit-win season. And while the New England defense put together another phenomenal performance in that 13-9 victory, another lackluster offensive showing raises more questions about New England's ability to generate points.
This might be the least dangerous the Patriots offense has been during that 17-year run.
The Pats have feasted this season on a remarkably soft schedule. But in four matchups against opponents that had winning records when they met, New England has averaged just 14.8 offensive points per game. The Patriots have managed to win three of those outings thanks mainly to fantastic defensive and special-teams play, and despite the play of Tom Brady.
The most decorated quarterback in NFL history completed just 17 of 37 passes for 190 yards in admittedly poor weather conditions Sunday. But this wasn't just about the wind and rain in Foxborough. In those four games against non-terrible opponents, Brady has completed just 53.8 percent of his passes for a yards-per-attempt average of only 5.0, a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 2-to-2 and a passer rating of 66.7.
His 88.5 overall passer rating ranks among the bottom 12 qualified starting quarterbacks in the NFL this season. But that mark was 99.4 back when New England was 5-0. Since then, his 80.3 rating ranks among the bottom 10 in the league.
He's thrown just five touchdown passes in his last six games, and only nine teams have scored fewer offensive touchdowns since Week 6.
Take away the six touchdowns they've scored on defense and special teams this year and the Pats would be averaging a mere 23.5 points per game—and even that number is inflated by early-season cakewalks, as well as the many short fields they've had as a result of defensive takeaways.
They entered Sunday with the best average starting field position in the NFL, and two of their three scoring drives against Dallas began inside the Cowboys' 30-yard line (one after a blocked punt, another following an interception). Their longest scoring drive of the day was just 38 yards as they averaged a mere 4.3 yards per play and converted three of 14 third downs.
Has Brady finally hit a wall at the age of 42? He completed two deep passes for 40-plus yards in New England's season-opening romp over the Pittsburgh Steelers but hasn't done so since. He was 4-of-10 on deep passing attempts against Dallas and just 3-of-15 combined in New England's previous two games against the Baltimore Ravens and Philadelphia Eagles.
Right in the middle of that tough stretch, one of Brady's all-time favorite targets, former tight end Rob Gronkowski, essentially confirmed he won't come out of retirement this season. Veteran wide receiver Julian Edelman has been battling injuries (and Father Time as well), Josh Gordon is gone, it doesn't look as though Antonio Brown will be brought back, and rookie N'Keal Harry is a work in progress. They'd probably prefer not to lean on Harry, undrafted rookie Jakobi Meyers or the injured Phillip Dorsett, and an argument can be made that running back James White is Brady's most reliable receiver.
The running game has been inconsistent, while the offensive line has lacked continuity as a result of injuries.
Put it all together and we probably shouldn't be surprised that they've failed to sustain drives against NFL-caliber opponents. This is one of the least supportive supporting casts Brady's been stuck with, and at 42, he can't carry that unit on his back.
Brady's just the eighth man in history to throw an NFL pass past his 42nd birthday, and none of the previous seven experienced any real success at that age. Warren Moon was a Pro Bowler at 41 before his production dipped significantly in what turned out to be his last season as a regular starter. Vinny Testaverde, Earl Morrall, Steve DeBerg and Doug Flutie were backups at that point. Lou Groza and George Blanda were kickers who threw the odd pass.
Brady's been an exception to a hell of a lot of rules, but the laws of nature are finally getting the best of him in his fifth decade on this planet. In the process, New England's offense has been exposed.
A win's a win, and the Patriots are still on track to clinch home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. That's crucial considering they've now won 22 consecutive games at Gillette Stadium.
But this was tied for their lowest point total in a home game started and finished by Brady since 2006. It's a bad sign that the Pats are suddenly not dominating in Foxborough, especially with the 7-4 Kansas City Chiefs and 8-3 Buffalo Bills coming to town down the stretch.
The Pats could still lose the top seed, especially considering Baltimore owns the tiebreaker over them. And even if that doesn't happen, Sunday's performance revealed that New England is now fallible—even at home.
Look beyond that bloated record and it's hard not to be concerned about Brady's Patriots.
Brad Gagnon has covered the NFL for Bleacher Report since 2012.