It’s almost easy to gloss over what has been either the best season by a quarterback in NFL history, or the second-best season by a quarterback in NFL history (to Peyton Manning’s 2004 year).
Brady has been great for so long. There isn’t anything he has done different this year. No part of his game has changed dramatically. There isn’t any specific improvement we can put a finger on and say — look at how he is better.
Earlier in the season, when I asked Patriots coach Bill Belichick what Brady was doing better this year, he said, “Not much. He’s won a lot of games in the past and made a lot of good plays. We threw the ball pretty well the second half of last year. People are talking like we never completed a pass around here. Tom always works hard to improve. But he was pretty good. He makes good decisions. Throws the ball accurately. He throws it to the open guy. He manages the clock. Manages the team. Handles the protections. He’s pretty good, and he’s been pretty good.”
But something is definitely different. Brady’s passer rating of 117.2 was 28.8 points higher than his previous career passer rating of 88.4. His completion percentage of 68.9 was significantly better than his previous career completion percentage of 61.9.
He is more efficient, certainly, because he has made fewer mistakes. He has thrown one interception for 72 passes this season. Over the rest of his career, he had thrown one for every 24 passes.
I asked Brady’s former teammate Deion Branch about Brady’s increased efficiency this year. He said, “It’s nothing new. It’s nothing different. He’s been in the same offense six, seven years now, so you’re seeing the experience of him playing in coach Belichick’s system.”
Clearly familiarity has bred efficiency for Brady.
But his performance this season isn’t just about efficiency. He also has been more spectacular than ever before.
His yards per attempt average of 8.3 is more than a yard per pass better than his previous career yards per attempt average of 7.04. His 50 touchdown passes are 22 more than his previous best.
Even Belichick allows as much. “We have had a lot of short passes that we’ve gotten good run after catch, receivers going up and making some good catches,” the coach said. “Moss has made some outstanding plays. It’s a combination of things.”
The nation grieved for those hurt, killed and affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. After one of the suspects was caught on Friday — following a day-long lockdown and manhunt — sports returned to Boston over the weekend.
Brady is throwing downfield more this year — mostly because he has the receivers to throw to. His passes have averaged 7 yards in the air this season. Last season, his passes averaged 5.6 yards in the air.
Really, we can break down Brady’s numbers until our calculators blow gaskets, but the numbers don’t capture the complete essence of what he means to the Patriots.
Welker came close this week when speaking to New England reporters. “The guy — in everything he does, it’s to perfection and he kind of holds everybody else to that standard just by the way he works hard and the way he goes and prepares for games,” Welker said. “He makes sure that everybody else is pulling their own weight and he does a great job of pulling everybody together and making sure we’re all doing the right things out there.”
ProFootballTalk: Patriots QB Tom Brady addressed Wes Welker’s decision to head West to Denver. Brady says he isn’t surprised by anything after being in the league for so long and hopes that Welker has a great season with the Broncos.
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