Forty-year-old Tom Brady looks an awful lot like 39-year-old Tom Brady.
And we’re not talking about the “TB12 Method,” or the resistance bands, or the electrolyte-infused water at the root of why – just the numbers.
The New England Patriots quarterback’s passing production sits right where you’d expect it to through the first three games of the 2017 regular season. He ranks seventh in the NFL in completions and is tied for eighth in attempts. He’s first in yards as well as touchdowns, and is not among the 30 signal-callers who’ve tossed an interception.
It’s been a similar stat line over the last couple campaigns for Brady. At age 39, he threw eight touchdowns in his first three October games after the four-game suspension. And at age 38, he amassed nine scores through the initial three games of 2015.
The fact Brady is performing at that level in his 18th campaign, and sans Julian Edelman’s 159 targets from a year ago, probably needs no introduction. Two weeks ago against the New Orleans Saints, Brady tallied three TDs in the first quarter and eclipsed 300 yards in the first half. This past Sunday against the Houston Texans, he hit Rob Gronkowski on third-and-12 and Danny Amendola on third-and-18 with under two minutes to play, sustaining what would become his 52nd game-winning drive as he delivered a toe-tapper to Brandin Cooks in the end zone.
The league’s oldest active non-specialist is off to one of his best starts, despite what transpired on kickoff night against the Kansas City Chiefs. His three-game sample size dating all the way back to 2009, when he returned following ACL and MCL tears suffered in another opening loss to Kansas City, reflects it.
FIRST THREE GAMES SINCE 2009
- 2017: 71-of-110 – 64.5 percent – for 1,092 yards, eight touchdowns, zero interceptions
- 2016: 76-of-101 – 75.2 percent – for 1,004 yards, eight touchdowns, zero interceptions
- 2015: 96-of-133 – 72.1 percent – for 1,112 yards, nine touchdowns, zero interceptions
- 2014: 67-of-114 – 58.7 percent – for 632 yards, three touchdowns, zero interceptions
- 2013: 73-of-127 – 57.4 percent – for 698 yards, five touchdowns, two interceptions
- 2012: 79-of-118 – 66.9 percent – for 887 yards, four touchdowns, one interception
- 2011: 93-of-133 – 69.9 percent – for 1,327 yards, 11 touchdowns, five interceptions
- 2010: 66-of-98 – 67.3 percent – for 758 yards, eight touchdowns, two interceptions
- 2009: 87-of-142 – 61.2 percent – for 871 yards, three touchdowns, two interceptions
Thus far into the calendar, Brady has thrown the third-fewest passes of his past nine seasons while completing north of 64 percent for the sixth time over that stretch.
But less volume hasn’t been met with less prolificacy. Just ask the Saints after 447 yards or the Texans after five touchdowns.
The explosive plays to the likes of Gronkowski, Amendola, Cooks and Chris Hogan have come in bunches, with 20 connections picking up 20-plus yards and five picking up 40-plus. And although the efficiency underneath may not compare to that of 2016 or 2015, when Brady was completing over 70 percent of his passes at this stage, the points do.
Brady’s eight touchdowns are tied for his third-most in the post-2008 era.
His high of 11 touchdowns over that span arrived in 2011 and brought along five interceptions. Those, however, has been cut out of the quarterback’s early-season diet for the most part.
Yes, his fumble-turned-six Sunday versus Houston was close to being ruled a pick. Yet it wasn’t. Brady hasn’t technically thrown one in his first three games since 2013, when a pair of passes intended for then-rookie free agent Zach Sudfeld wound up in the hands of a Buffalo Bill and a Tampa Bay Buccaneer.
A good deal has changed.
But Brady’s numbers certainly aren’t down from where they have been for nearly a decade. He’s beyond 1,000 yards for the fourth time in that timeframe. He’s a long ways from the sub-700-yard beginnings of 2013 and 2014 sprinkled in between. And, in many ways, the reality that he is doesn’t make much sense.
The Patriots have little reason to make sense of it.
Brady is currently on pace for a 378-of-586 year with 5,824 yards and 42 touchdowns.