PHILADELPHIA — Tom Brady entered his post-game press conference at Lincoln Financial Field wearing a camouflage winter coat, but there was no hiding or disguising his disgust with the current state of the Patriots offense. The Patriots won their ninth game of the season on Sunday, defeating the Philadelphia Eagles, but Brady has lost all patience with a sputtering attack that is relying on smoke and mirrors and more tricks than a Las Vegas magician.
It didn’t take Brady long to vanish from the rostrum after the Patriots scraped together a 17-10 win over the Eagles. Brady, held without a touchdown pass, didn’t lead the Patriots to many points. He wasn’t interested in making many after it.
This Super Bowl rematch was a far cry from the points pyrotechnics of Super Bowl LII when the teams combined for 74 points and a single punt. The Patriots offense is a far cry from what we’re used to in Foxborough. They have to resort to screens, extra offensive linemen, and trick plays to move the ball and provide points. There is no there there for the Patriots, offensively. It’s all schematic sleight of hand, hurry-up tactics, and misdirection designed to distract defenses or get them to commit self-harm. That’s how the Patriots can score, by fooling the other team or forcing it to foul up. Ten games into the season it’s an offense grounded in gimmicks, not exemplary execution, and Brady knows it.
In a funereal and fuming post-game press appearance an irritable Brady spoke few words, but his demeanor spoke volumes about the Patriots offense. Brady is at a loss. Words and points are hard to come by these days.
How would TBQB describe the offense at this point in the season? “Uh, up and down. That’s what it looks like to me. We can probably do everything better,” said the sullen signal-caller.
Well, does Brady feel the offense will eventually find its way and its identity as it did last season or is he concerned? “I don’t think it matters what I think. It matters what we do.” OK, then.
It was mentioned to Brady that he sounded uncharacteristically discouraged for a quarterback whose team advanced to 9-1. “Well, we just played for three hours. So, I think everyone is a little tired.”
You can’t blame Brady for being a bit sleepy after this one. It was the NFL version of Ambien.
The Patriots mustered just enough offense to prevail against the offensively-challenged Eagles in a snooze-fest of football on a gray, blustery day in Philly. Their lone touchdown came on a trick play double-pass with Julian Edelman hitting Phillip Dorsett on the first drive of the third quarter. Coach Bill Belichick and the Patriots don’t have to apologize for winning by any X’s and O’s means necessary, but they must acknowledge that this offense lacks proficiency and an identity.
What do the Patriots do really well offensively other than the symbiotic relationship between Brady and Julian Edelman? The list is Eddie Gaedel short.
Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels is having to dig deep into his bag of tricks to try to generate points and traction. This marked the fourth consecutive game that the Patriots were limited to less than 350 yards of offense. They finished Sunday with 298 yards, their second-lowest total of the season.
Discounting defensive touchdowns, the offense hasn’t generated more than 20 points in a game in its last three contests. Brady has one multi-touchdown game in his last five contests while twice in that span he has been held without a TD pass. That’s not what we’re accustomed to. It’s not what Brady, who finished 26 of 47 for 216 yards, is accustomed to.
Brady has expressed uncertainty or tacit disapproval with the offense all season. But he has never looked or sounded this salty or fed up.
There was nothing Philly Special about the offensive performance for either team. After the Eagles jumped out to a 10-0 lead in the second quarter on an interception that was overturned to a touchdown for Philadelphia’s Dallas Goedert, the Patriots defense smothered them. Carson Wentz and the Eagles generated just 22 yards between Goedert’s controversial TD grab with 12:36 left in the second quarter and the end of the third quarter.
But at least the Eagles could cling to the excuses of being without their leading rusher, Jordan Howard, and their best receiver, Alshon Jeffery.
For the second game in a row, the Patriots failed to expose a questionable secondary that a vintage Patriots attack would have sliced and diced.
At the half, Brady was just 11 of 25 for 103 yards. The Patriots had 121 total yards and trailed, 10-9, after being forced to settle for three field goals on consecutive drives that all reached at least the Philadelphia 20. The prolific offensive output Brady oversaw against the Eagles in that Super Bowl when he threw for a Super Bowl record 505 yards must have seemed like eons ago to Brady with this current iteration of the New England offense sputtering along like a Model T.
Tellingly, on third and 9 from the 21 with 1:52 left in the first half, the Eagles played man defense with a single high safety. Brady couldn’t connect with Mohamed Sanu. You have to be able to make defenses pay when they’re in man coverage. Outside of JE11, who dropped a sure-fire TD pass, the Patriots can’t do that in a big way.
The Patriots finally found the end zone on their first drive of the third quarter, resorting to trickeration with Edelman.
“We had something dialed up that we’ve been working on,” said Edelman, who is 4 for 4 for 90 yards and a touchdown in his career as a passer. “We needed it, so we threw it in there, and we were able to make the play.”
They had attempted a double pass earlier in the game with the ball going to Rex Burkhead, who tossed it back to Brady, who couldn’t connect downfield with Dorsett. These are desperation plays and an indictment of the offense.
All the issues that have plagued the Patriots all season reared their heads in this one. They struggled to convert on third down, going just 5 of 16, and are only converting at a 38.8 percent clip for the season. They couldn’t find the end zone in the red zone. The running game was stunted, averaging 3.4 yards per carry. Brady had to integrate yet another new face into the passing attack, as rookie N’Keal Harry made a solid, if unspectacular debut, catching three of the four passes sent his way for 18 yards.
“Obviously, we didn’t go up and put up the points that we wanted to put up,” said Edelman. “You got to tip your hat to their defense and our defense for bailing us out. But, you know, we had a good week of practice last week. We just got to continue to do that, and that’s usually when it carries over to games.”
It’s bad business to bet against the Patriots offense and Brady. But it’s also obvious that this offense is lost. The Patriots are telling us this with the types of plays they’re running. If you can’t beat ‘em, fool ‘em.
But nobody is fooling Brady.