Pro Football Focus (PFF) looked at the quarterbacks that had the most success targeting any given route and New England Patriots QB Tom Brady featured as the best quarterback at a pair of routes that require impeccable touch and timing. Brady finished as the #1 quarterback in PFF’s ratings, so they’re a big fan of his 2016 season.
Best QB on go routes (min. 10 targeted attempts): Tom Brady, New England Patriots
“It is no coincidence that Chris Hogan was the most successful receiver on go routes when you look at how effective Tom Brady was throwing the route. Brady was PFF’s highest-graded QB on go routes, completing 20 of 48 passes for 660 yards, 6 touchdowns, and a QB rating of 119.8. Brady was second in QB rating, third in touchdowns, third in completions, and second in yards on the go route. Brady was eighth in completion percentage at 41 percent, but was fifth in adjusted completion percentage at 48 percent due to his receivers dropping three passes. He had great success on the go route versus the Cover 3, as 7 of his 13 passes resulted in either first downs or touchdowns, and one of his incompletions was on a miscommunication.”
Brady finished the season as PFF’s best deep ball quarterback, thanks to the emergence of WR Chris Hogan as the deep threat that Patriots have clamored for over the past decade. Hogan finished at PFF’s best go route receiver in 2016. Brady trailed Falcons QB Matt Ryan in passer rating on go routes, but attempted 48 passes to just 29 by Ryan.
Go routes require great timing and accuracy and it wouldn’t be a shock to see Brady’ performance on go routes to improve in 2017 as he gets more comfortable with Hogan as a receiver and as TE Rob Gronkowski returns to the lineup.
Best QB targeting hitches and comebacks (min. 20 targeted attempts): Tom Brady, New England Patriots
“PFF’s highest-graded quarterback makes the list yet again, and for good reason. Brady completed 52 of 66 passes for 609 yards, 3 touchdowns and a league-leading QB rating of 120.3. His 78.8-percent completion percentage was the sixth-highest in the league. He had an average time per attempt of 2.55 seconds and an aDOT of 8 yards, both right around league average. Brady was on fire throwing to these routes in the playoffs, as he completed 19 of 23 passes for 232 yards and a touchdown. In the Super Bowl, Brady attacked the Falcons in man coverage with these routes. He completed all 5 of his passes for 63 yards, four going for first downs.”
The purpose of a hitch or comeback is to sell a deeper route, force the defender to commit, and then turn back towards the quarterback to generate separation on the defender. WR Julian Edelman was the best receiver in the NFL at these routes in 2016.
These routes require impeccable timing by the quarterback and receiver, and for both parties to be on the exact same page after reading the coverage in the exact same way. PFF has Brady completing 19 of 23 of these passes in the playoffs for 232 yards and a touchdown.
PFF also had Brady as an honorable mention for in-and-out routes, noting that Brady had highest completion rate of all quarterbacks with these routes.
It should be noted that everything wasn’t all peachy for Brady. PFF has the Patriots quarterback down for three interceptions on slant routes, tied for most in the NFL. To make it even worse, all three came in the playoffs.
All three interceptions came on similar patterns where the receiver was cutting across the field from the outside. The first interception against the Texans and the interception against the Falcons came when Brady was locked in on the receiver and failed to notice a defender lurking; the second interception against the Texans was just thrown too far inside for the receiver to corral.
Brady has mastered skill after quarterback skill over the years, so I expect him to come back in 2017 with the best slant or post pass the NFL has ever seen.