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On the run: Tom Brady, James White and third-and-9

It wasn’t as it was drawn up when Tom Brady left the pocket with 6:43 to go in the first quarter on Sunday.

“There’s nothing good that happens when the ball is my hands.”

Those weren’t the words of an offensive lineman, but Tom Brady, four days before the New England Patriots met the Pittsburgh Steelers for a 4:25 p.m. kickoff at Heinz Field.

It’s was a strange sentiment to hear from the three-time Super Bowl MVP, who’d gone 57-of-75 passing for 782 yards, six touchdowns and no interceptions through his first two games of the season. In context, though, what he said was also true.

“I’ve got to get the ball to somebody that can actually do something with it,” Brady continued. “So that’s part of it for me is identifying who should get it, how quickly they should get it, and then getting the ball out of my hands and into the hands of the receivers or the running backs so they can actually make some yards.”

More often than not, the less time Brady holds the football for, the better off New England’s passing game is. He’s seen the coverage. He’s diagnosed his primary read. And on average, he’s taken the snap and gotten the football into his playmakers’ hands in under two seconds.

Brady managed to do so to a certain extent versus Pittsburgh, finding wideout Julian Edelman on quick-breaking routes over the middle and dialing up a touchdown to tight end Rob Gronkowski down the seam. But, on occasion, the Steelers’ defense did its part to make Brady hold onto the ball longer than he’d like to.

That was the case on third-and-9 with 6:43 remaining in the first quarter.

What followed was both inelegant yet impactful improvisation.

NFL Game Pass

The Patriots lined up in “21” personnel from shotgun, with running back Brandon Bolden motioning into the backfield next to Brady and fellow back James White.

Bolden was set to cut cross the face of Jarvis Jones on the play, while White was set to run to the flat opposite Vince Williams. But the two Steelers linebackers would be in position to cover New England’s short, parallel patterns and little separation would be generated further downfield.

Brady would have to bide his time.

The 39-year-old quarterback took the snap and was greeted by a four-man rush, with Lawrence Timmons blitzing the A-gap behind the zero-technique, Javon Hargrave. Hargrave sidestepped right guard Shaq Mason thenceforth, and Timmons followed his lead by eclipsing center David Andrews.

Pittsburgh’s commotion left Brady with few options. He could take a quick shot over the top, where Edelman and Gronkowski were running a scissors concept that had been snuffed out by a trio of Steelers defensive backs. He could try to fire a strike low and inside to rookie receiver Malcolm Mitchell on a dig pattern that had drawn another two defensive backs. Or, he could try to outpace the anticipating linebackers and connect with Bolden or White.

Brady chose none of the above.

Instead, he packed up his belongings and left the collapsing pocket.

With one pump-fake, Brady bought a second to roll around the right tackle. From there, it was up to his eyes and his legs to facilitate something out of a play that had nothing.

Five seconds in, Brady found something.

White adapted his route to the flat by wheeling up the sideline. With one cut back to the ball, No. 28 had enough room and No. 12 had enough time to deliver it.

The on-the-run completion picked up 13 yards.

It wasn’t as it was drawn up. But it was a first down for New England on a play that seemed destined to end in fourth. And that grew all the more important when Brady linked back up with White on a screen pass only six snaps later.

A 19-yard gain, as well as the first points of the game, were the byproduct.