KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Blame it on Tom Brady.
Blame him for the traffic on your morning commute. Blame him for Suffolk Downs getting passed over for a casino license. Blame him for Rajon Rondo slipping in the shower and breaking his hand. It’s all Brady’s fault. He is responsible for all local disappointments and shortcomings.
If the Patriots lose to the Kansas City Chiefs on Monday night at Arrowhead Stadium, then the Brady bashers will continue the chorus of No. 12’s culpability for every issue the Patriots’ sputtering offense has.
It was Brady who traded Logan Mankins, the Patriots’ best run blocker, to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and then wondered why the Patriots couldn’t simply run right at the Oakland Raiders. It was Brady who used a 2013 second-round pick on a promising wide receiver (Aaron Dobson) and mothballed him two of the first three games of this season. It was Brady who decided the five combined special teams snaps that Brandon LaFell and Danny Amendola played in the victory over the Raiders were a must-have.
Oh, wait. He’s not responsible for those decisions. Another legend is — head coach and head honcho Bill Belichick.
Quarterbacks are like American presidents. They get too much of the credit for the good times and too much of the blame for the bad ones. Pinning the desultory performance of the Patriots’ offense this season completely on Brady is the easiest, laziest football opinion one can have.
Brady is just the messenger and the message is that Belichick left the offensive cupboard a bit bare.
Brady has the misfortune of being the most camera-captured symbol of the offense’s ineffectiveness. On television, playing quarterback looks elementary. Why doesn’t Brady see that pass rusher barreling in on him or that receiver on the backside who is clearly wide open? It looks so easy in HD with slow-motion replay and DVR.
However, TV is a filter for football. It’s not a complete picture. Can you see the left guard miss his block? Can you see the receivers getting less separation than seats on a Spirit Airlines flight?
Sometimes quarterbacks do deserve the bulk of the responsibility for defeat (see: Cousins, Kirk). But Brady has not thrown an interception this season, never mind four in one game like Cousins on Thursday against the Giants.
TB12 is not blameless. Brady is inaccurate on the deep ball now, just 1 of 13 on passes that traveled 21-plus yards in the air, according to STATS Inc. He is more susceptible to experiencing paranormal activity in a clean pocket.
But the much-maligned offensive line has waved pass rushers through to Brady like a traffic cop at a busy intersection, the intersection of sacked and hit. Put any quarterback there, and he’s going to suffer. Ask Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers, like Brady a member of the Order of Elite NFL Quarterbacks who has come under fire from his own fans.
Entering Sunday, the Patriots had gone three-and-out on 32.4 percent of their drives (11 of 34). The only teams in the league with a higher percentage of three-and-outs after Week 3 were the talent-starved outfits in Oakland and Jacksonville.
An offense that hasn’t made much noise now has to contend with an ear-splitting abundance of it on Monday night.
The Chiefs will look to turn up the heat on Brady with pass rushers Tamba Hali and Justin Houston, and their fans will look to turn up the volume at Arrowhead Stadium. Kansas City is trying to reclaim the Guinness World Record for loudest crowd roar at a sports stadium (outdoors). The record is 137.6 decibels, set by the Seattle Seahawks’ faithful last season.
There were 17 combined false starts and delay of game penalties on Chiefs’ opponents at Arrowhead Stadium in 2013, the most for any home team in the NFL. In Week 1, throaty Chiefs fans helped force Tennessee into two false starts and one delay of game.
As the legendary Yogi Berra would say, the current state of the Patriots’ offense is déjà vu all over again, right down to playing a prime-time game on the road in Week 4.
Last season, through three games, the Patriots were averaging 19.7 points per game. This year they’re averaging 22, which includes a blocked field goal return by Chandler Jones. Take those 7 points away and the Patriots are averaging . . . 19.7 points per game on offense. This year after three games, Brady has been sacked seven times. Last year, it was seven sacks.
Through three games in 2013, the Patriots averaged 4.5 yards per play. This year it’s 4.3, which ranked last in the NFL.
At this time last year, there were the same doom-and-gloom calls that Brady was nearing the end of the line because he was only completing 57.5 percent of his passes and locking on to Julian Edelman. This year Brady is completing 58.8 percent of his passes and has a GPS stuck on Edelman and Rob Gronkowski.
Brady and the Patriots offense went out against the Atlanta Falcons on “Sunday Night Football” last season and took the offense out of neutral and threw it into drive. New England scored 30 points. Brady had his first 300-yard passing game of the season and threw for two scores. Kenbrell Thompkins emerged from a pedestrian pack of wide receivers to catch six passes for 127 yards and a touchdown.
By the end of the season, the Patriots were in their customary spot among the league leaders in total offense (seventh, 384.5 yards per game) and points per game (third at 27.3).
Brady wasn’t the problem for the 2013 Patriots offense. He was the compass that pointed it in the right direction.
The Patriots’ offense isn’t struggling because of Brady. It’s struggling despite him, which should tell you that the bulk of the blame points in another legend’s direction.