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Quick Passes, Extending Plays: Andrew Luck and Tom Brady

Tom Brady's mobility has helped the offense- but how does that compare to the rest of the league?

Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

The Patriots operate out of a timing based offense, so it stands to reason that every second that Tom Brady stands in the pocket is due to the play call- and any additional second is because the play has broken down. Pro Football Focus tracks a quarterback's statistical splits based upon whether the player spends above or below 2.5 seconds in the pocket.

2.5 seconds might sound arbitrary, but it's the time where any given offensive line that is matched up against an equal number of pass rushers will yield a 50% chance of a pressure. Anything faster and the quarterback is doing a good job of negating defensive pressure. Anything longer and it's likely the quarterback will have to have some pocket mobility to extend the play.

It stands to reason that a quarterback like Peyton Manning- with limited physical ability and mobility- will try and use presnap adjustments to generate an advantage; if there's a way to get the ball into the hands of the receiver as soon as possible, it means that defenses will have less time to adjust and attack both the quarterback and the ball. As a result, Manning's average time to throw the ball of 2.31 seconds is the fastest in the league.

Brady ranks third with 2.37 seconds (sandwiching Andy Dalton's 2.35 seconds). The Colts quarterback Andrew Luck ranks 20th out of 30 qualifying quarterbacks at 2.76 seconds, alongside Aaron Rodgers (2.77) and Tony Romo (2.78)- some of the best play extenders in the league.

It would make since that quarterbacks who are more mobile and able to shed the pass rush will be able to sustain more time in the pocket (although Ben Roethlisberger ranks 6th at 2.51 seconds). However, it there's a difference between extending plays in the pocket and having success doing so.

One of the main flaws in Luck's game from my film review is that he holds the ball too long and ends up just throwing a dangerous pass into the open field to avoid the sack. It leads to fumble and interception opportunities. Just because a player is spending more time in the pocket doesn't mean that it's a good choice.

A quick and dirty way to measure the value of the added time in the pocket is to just subtract the passer ratings of the two splits. If a player's passer rating on plays <2.5 seconds is greater than on plays >2.5 seconds then they, obviously, benefit from quicker plays.

A quarterback like Russell Wilson sees his passer rating fall from 112.2 on plays <2.5 seconds to 61.7 on longer plays- that fall of 50.5 points is the largest in the league and it makes sense that he's been running more as of late; it's a better play than having him throw when the play breaks down.

Luck ranks a completely average 15th out of 30 quarterbacks with a passer rating that declines 17.6 points (109.2 to 91.6) when he has to extend the play. It should be clear that 91.6 isn't bad, but it's clear that it's in the Patriots best interest to keep him in the pocket for as long as possible.

It should come as no surprise that the top three quarterbacks who benefit from extra time in the pocket are Roethlisberger, Rodgers, and Romo who see a +28.4, +19.8, and +15.2 increase when given more time (and fourth place Colin Kaepernick shouldn't be a shock, either). These are quarterbacks that need to be pressured as sitting back in coverage doesn't have the same benefit.

Coming in at 6th place (behind 5th place Brian Hoyer!) is Tom Brady, whose passer rating increases 9 points when he gets extra time in the pocket. Brady, along with Roethlisberger, Rodgers, and Romo, all rank in the top six of quarterbacks most reliant on the play action pass. This speaks to the value of the Patriots running backs and how crucial a piece they are for offensive success.

For this Sunday's game against the Colts, the Patriots need to borrow from the Steelers' game plan and use the defensive line to contain Luck between the offensive tackles. He needs to feel the line collapsing in on him with no room for him to step up or slide. The longer than Luck is forced to stay in the pocket, the more likely he is to make a mistake and that's where the Patriots will win- off of his mistakes.

While on offense, the Patriots have a clear need to establish the running game; they can't afford to let the Colts get an early lead to remove the Patriots threat of the play action pass. It's imperative New England has a quick start. Brady's mobility is helping the offense move the ball down the field and this Sunday they'll need it as much as ever.