It was just a matter of time until the injuries to the offense caught up to quarterback Tom Brady and the New England Patriots- and we mean caught up in very loose terms for a squad that just posted 28 points.
Brady is throwing fewer bullseyes to his targets which implies a combination of lack of familiarity with his targets, an inability for the receivers to get open, and a lack of confidence in the offensive line impacting the release of the pass.
It's not just one issue that we can highlight and therefore offer a solution; this is something that is the result of the entire offense finally breaking down. On the flip side, the fix is also pretty simple: get everyone healthy and everything will be back to normal.
Brady's off-target rate hasn't changed, but his bullseyes have decreased
In just one week, Brady's bullseye rate has fallen from 68.5% to 68.1%, while his off-target rate is a flat 12.0%. This means that Brady isn't connecting with his current receivers at the exact location these players need to be, which implies a limitation in personnel.
If Brady were completely off-target, like he was with Brandon LaFell on a few occasions, that would suggest a total mental breakdown in the offense, but since Brady is throwing catchable passes, it seems that players are stemming their routes, or turning into the flat at different paces than the quarterback is familiar.
And it's not really Brandon LaFell
Brady and LaFell still have a 57% rate on bullseyes, which is fairly low (Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, Keshawn Martin, and Aaron Dobson are all over 70% on the season), but that rate didn't change this week. The issue is actually with Danny Amendola, the only receiver to see their trend downward a notable amount.
Amendola's bullseye connection dropped from a fantastic 80% to a 74% clip in just one game, with a noticeable difference on the typically easy passes up the middle. An explanation is obviously that Amendola is playing through a serious knee injury, and this drop in the relationship will rectify itself within a week or two. Still, with Amendola dropping his first passes of the season, and Brady and Amendola missing the mark on a few passes, the accuracy is worth monitoring.
James White was stellar
The clubhouse leader for bullseye rate (min. 10 targets) is now James White, who is the only player above 80%. Brady has a 96% accuracy rating when throwing to White (catchable passes inside the strike zone) and it's all the more reason to keep White involved in the offense and in the backfield.
And the great point is that White is running the same depths as Dion Lewis was earlier in the season. The two average roughly 8% of their targets 10+ yards down the field, while White actually sees a whopping 60% of his targets between 1-10 yards beyond the line of scrimmage, compared to 40% for Lewis. So if you want this offense to produce, White has to stay involved.
Tom Brady continues to thrive on passes <20 yards down the field
Somehow, someway, Brady's accuracy is increasing on passes shorter than 20 yards down the field, while his bullseye rate on 20+ yard passes hasn't changed. This goes back to the point in the intro, however: Brady's bullseye rates are down, but he's hitting the strike zone on more passes.
There's no real takeaway from this without picking Brady's brain. If he's hitting the strike zone more, but his bullseyes are down, does that mean he's willing to take more risks when trying to throw passes to these back-up receivers? Or is it simply a matter of players not being exactly where they're expected? There's a lot to dissect, but health should fix most of the offensive issues.