One of the biggest plays of the New England Patriots’ 43-40 win against the Kansas City Chiefs was a 4-yard touchdown run by Tom Brady. Down 33-30 late in the fourth quarter and facing a third-and-goal, the quarterback did his best Cam Newton impression: he broke a sack attempt by Chiefs defender Breeland Speaks and took advantage of the opening in front of him to scramble into the end zone for six.
Brady is no stranger to keeping the football and scoring himself – his 19 regular season rushing touchdowns rank him 29th among active players – but seeing him take off and run is still a rare sight. While it is common in today’s NFL that quarterbacks operate outside of the pocket and pose a serious threat with their feet on any given down, Brady is a classic old-school pocket passer who mostly uses carrying the football as his last option.
Appearing on Westwood One radio yesterday to talk about the victory over the Chiefs, the 41-year old also spoke about his ability and willingness as a runner. “When [opportunities to run] come up in certain moments, you’ve got to take advantage,” Brady told host Jim Gray. “They don’t really come up for me that often, and unfortunately, instinctually, I don’t have those instincts to just take off and go.”
“I’m always thinking, ‘Throw it. Throw it. Throw it. Throw it.’ It’s never saying, ‘Hey, take off and go.’ And some guys who have a lot of confidence in their speed, that becomes more part of their game,” the future Hall of Famer continued. Running the football is typically not a part of the game for Brady and his famous 5.28 seconds 40-yard time, – which does not mean that he does not do it if it is the best option on a play.
Excluding kneel-downs, Brady carried the football 343 times over the course of his career for an average of 3.4 yards per attempt – a solid number for a player who attempted plenty of short-yardage sneaks over the course of his career. Even though he will never be confused with Cam Newton, Russell Wilson or even Aaron Rodgers when it comes to carrying the football as a runner, Brady has been surprisingly productive when trying to advance on his own with 121 of his carries (35.3%) going for more than 4 yards.
A lack of production is therefore not the issue when it comes to turning Tom Brady the passer into Tom Brady the ball carrier. And as he himself notes, it has to do with instincts. “Part of it, I think, my mind’s holding me back, as well as my body,” Brady said about getting over the hump and turning into a runner. “If I can eliminate my mind, I think it will be easier to gain yards when I do decide to run.”
In order to maximize his potential as a ball carrier and trust his body over his natural instincts of staying in the pocket, the 41-year old knows that he has to continue working on it. “I think in the offseason, it’s good for me to train like that,” said Brady. “When I have the opportunities in the game, I could take advantage of it. I’ve had a couple runs this year, and I’m really trying to build on it. And hopefully, we can.”
Ever the tactician, Brady knows that him being able to run the football could give New England an advantage at any time: “If they’re really going to focus on some heavy coverage and I have opportunities to run like I did [against Kansas City], I’ve got to do a better job seeing it, identifying it and then really being decisive and taking off, because I have the ability to do it.”
At age 41, Brady will therefore have a chance to break the 1,000-yard barrier when it comes to his career rushing output. Preferably, however, he will still continue to consistently lose yardage as well: on kneel downs in the victory formation.