It’s not just Tom Brady responsible for the New England Patriots staying undefeated despite not having any of their top receivers healthy enough to play; Bill Belichick has to be doing something right in practice, while Aqib Talib is becoming into a one man wrecking machine in the endzone. However, it takes a special quarterback to look this good with this bunch of passing targets.
After a slow start to the season, Tom Brady doesn’t care if the best receiver he has is Julian Edelman, who caught 7 passes for 118 yards but is no longer Brady’s favorite target, who looked at Kenbrell Thompkins more than anyone else. Brady finished with 20-of-31 for 316 yards and two touchdown passes, leading the Patriots to their first meaningful win of the season, beating the dysfunctional Atlanta Falcons 30-23.
If one is able to describe one thing the Falcons are doing badly that has caused them drop three games this season with the margin being 7 points or less comes down to their inability to finish in the redzone. They had a 60% redzone success ratio last season after four games. This year? Only 38.9%. This included Matt Ryan seeing Aqib Talib bat down a pass intended for Roddy White on fourth down with a minute left to play, which might have sent the game into overtime.
Talib also finished the game with an interception, already his fourth of the season, and did an excellent job on the very hard to cover Julio Jones, defending three passes directed at the wide receiver, who finished with 6 catches for 108 yards but no touchdowns. The improved secondary forced Matt Ryan to keep going for Tony Gonzalez, finishing with 12-of-13 when targeting his tight end but going only 22-of-41 when looking for others.
The Patriots look very far from perfect, as they allowed the Falcons to come back from 17 points down deep in the fourth quarter and gave them an opportunity to tie the game on the final drive. And still, after wins over weak teams that didn’t really bring any reason for celebration or for anyone to be impressed, the formula that has been so successful for so long is working, even if is still creaking all over.
We slugged it out. We came to Atlanta, which is a tough place to play and they’ve got a very good team. It’s nice to win and be 4-0. We’ve got to do a better job of finishing out the game, but we did a good job of putting ourselves in that position with a 17-point lead with 6 minutes to go in the game. We’re missing quite a few guys, so hopefully when we’ll get them back we’ll look more efficient.
Brady is doing fine, despite the unimpressive selection of receivers he has. As the Patriots marched down the field to score their final touchdown of the game, Brady led the team on an 80-yard drive that needed only five plays and less than 2 minutes to complete, ending with a Thompkins touchdown. The running game was also quite efficient, getting a big play and touchdown from LeGarrette Blount, who ran for 64 yards on 9 carries.
Even after all the criticism and the problems, Tom Brady has thrown a touchdown in 52 consecutive games. The New England Patriots might not be perfect in style and execution, but they’re 4-0 without having the right roster to be this good. It just might be another sign of how great Brady and Belichick really are.