It's no secret that the New England Patriots go as Tom Brady goes.
Yes, football is a team sport and all 11 players out on the field are important, but we know that it's a quarterback-driven league, and Brady has been leading the charge for years.
That said, a quarterback can only be as good as his offensive line allows him to be. If he doesn't have the protection in front of him, he better be mobile or the pressure will lead to hurried throws and sacks.
Brady is a lot of things, but mobile isn't one of them.
While his pocket presence is up there with the best of them, the pocket has been collapsing far too quickly these days. Overall, Brady hasn't let it negatively affect his play, as he had a NFL-best QB rating of 138.5 while under pressure heading into the Bucs game, but things changed in a hurry — literally.
Brady was under pressure on a season-high 40-percent of his dropbacks against Tampa Bay and he completed just five of his 13 attempts for 60 yards under pressure, according to Pro Football Focus.
He was sacked three times, bringing his season total to 16. To put that into perspective, Brady was sacked a total of 15 times over 12 games in 2016. That year he was sacked on 10.4-percent of plays under pressure. This year, according to Pro Football Focus, that rate has more than doubled to 21.3-percent, the 12th highest rate in the league.
He's on pace to be sacked around 50 times this year, which would be a career-high. Not exactly what you want to put your 40-year-old quarterback through, even if he is Mr. Pliability.
So what's the problem? The hope is that more time and continuity will strengthen the line and allow Brady the time necessary to get his offense going. The offense has become more vertical this year than in years past and may require him to hold the ball in the pocket longer than usual.
Against the Bucs, much of the pressure on Brady came from the left side, where tackle Nate Solder and guard Joe Thuney struggled at points, allowing 11 of the 19 pressures on the night, according to PFF. Unfortunately, that’s been a trend from that side early on this season.
Solder missed the majority of camp and all four preseason games due to injury. Though he did start Week 1 and has started all five regular season games, it could be that he’s not fully healthy or not yet where he needs to be. His play was enough to get CBS color analyst Tony Romo to question Solder’s health on the Thursday night broadcast.
Despite the uncharacteristic play, Patriots coaches are not pointing fingers at any one particular player, instead
“I think Nate battles a lot of the best players in the league over there at left tackle,” Offensive Coordinator Josh McDaniels told reporters on Monday. “He’s done it for a long time. Just like every player, there’s going to be some plays that could you improve on them? Sure, but there’s a lot of good plays, too. It’s a team thing. All our guys, all our coaches, our players, we’re all trying to improve and get better.”