One of the more interesting things in the New England Patriots starting the season with 10 consecutive wins was Tom Brady and his release time. Injuries to his top receiving targets have hurt maybe his biggest asset as a quarterback right now.
The Patriots have lost two in a row against the Denver Broncos and Philadelphia Eagles, but their struggles, and getting closer to a loss, began in the two previous weeks: Against the New York Giants and the Buffalo Bills.
Julian Edelman missing the last three games and being out until the end of the regular season and maybe the playoffs as well might be the biggest problem for Brady, who heavily relies on his slot receiver to make big and small plays, leading the team in receptions despite playing just nine games (61 catches for 692 yards and 7 touchdowns). Rob Gronkowski not playing right now is another problem, which means 931 yards and 9 touchdowns for Brady to find somewhere else, but Edelman is more than a red zone target – he helps this offense click, and keep Brady sharp and quick.
Brady’s release time until Edelman was injured was the fastest in the NFL: An incredible 2.13 seconds before every throw. Since Edelman’s injury? He needs 2.63 seconds to throw, the 8th slowest in the league. And in the NFL, with a pass rush that usually has a lot of problems against standard pass rushing (extra men for the blitz don’t usually work well against Brady and the Patriots), half a second is a very long time.
That is why Brady has been taking so much punishment over the last three weeks. The Bills and Broncos make sense – their defenses are very good, and were going to get to Brady anyway. But against the Eagles, the Patriots o-line problems showed, with Brady taking 14 hits in the game and throwing two interceptions, and having to shrug off some defenders a few times as well. He ran for 17 yards, which is a huge game for him, but the Patriots aren’t going to do well in the final four weeks of the season with Brady having to shake off pass rushers every snap.