Tom Brady had struggled of late. After two straight losses, he had, for one of the few times in his 12 years as a Patriot, found himself vulnerable to criticism.
Brady’s 342 passing yards, two touchdowns, and two interceptions last week against the Giants were dissected because of the turnovers and his questionable misfires to open receivers. Even his misfires from a 25-17 loss to the Steelers the week before were rehashed.
In the first half last night against the Jets, Brady seemed to continue the trend. He floated a pass too far for Wes Welker. He had a miscommunication with Deion Branch toward the sideline. He threw into triple coverage, almost getting picked off by noted Brady hater Antonio Cromartie.
Brady didn’t seem himself.
There were worries of an injury after Brady iced his arm in front of reporters earlier in the week. There were also worries of favoritism, with Brady targeting Welker and Rob Gronkowski too much.
But in the second half, Brady muted any criticism. Going to the hurry-up offense, he went 6 of 9 in the third quarter for 53 yards and a touchdown. In the fourth quarter, with the Patriots up, 23-16, he choreographed a 13-play, 84-yard drive in which he completed 7 of 7 passes for 65 yards, including an 8-yard touchdown to Branch. It was a dagger of a drive that spurred the Patriots to a 37-16 win. Brady finished 26 of 39 for 329 yards and three touchdowns.
Gronkowski, who had eight receptions for 113 yards and two touchdowns, called it a matter of execution.
Brady chalked up it up to tentativeness.
“It was just indecision,’’ he said. “You have to try and eliminate those.’’
Esteemed Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis saw Brady’s second-half surge differently.
“You saw him get a little bit [more] comfortable back there, but that’s on us as a defense,’’ Revis said. “We can’t let Tom stay back there. When he has time, he can tear you apart.’’
At 6 feet 6 inches and 265 pounds, Gronkowski presents matchup problems for teams, including the Jets. Brady connected with his burly tight end twice for scores - and almost on a third, had Gronkowski not stepped out of the back of the end zone before a reception. He outmuscled Jets cornerback Donald Strickland in the back of the end zone for an 18-yard touchdown in the second quarter, and came across the middle again for a 5-yard TD in the third.
As far as being Brady’s favorite target, Gronkowski takes issue with that.
“There’s a lot of guys that are big targets for him,’’ Gronkowski said. “Everyone is playing great. You never know who can be the main target that game. You never know what the coverage is going to be. And you’ve just got to be prepared.’’
Zuri Berry can be reached at email@example.com.