- Mike Reiss, ESPN Staff Writer
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A weekly analysis of the New England Patriots’ quarterback play.
Rewind: One week after turning in a rare sub-50 percent completion effort against the Jets, Tom Brady had better results in a 23-3 win over the Buccaneers on Sunday. He finished 25-of-36 for 225 yards with two touchdowns and one interception, but it was the interception (in the end zone) that he admitted bothered him well into the night. He also had a few other plays where he missed open receivers. It's the type of performance that many teams would happily take, but based on Brady's high standard, it fell a bit short.
Fast-forward: The Falcons are without two key players in the front seven, as pass-rushing defensive end Kroy Biermann (torn Achilles) is out for the year and linebacker Sean Weatherspoon (foot) is on short-term injured reserve. While playmaking cornerback Asante Samuel is always a concern, this looks like a short-handed defense that Brady could have success against.
Streak on the line: Brady has thrown at least one touchdown pass in 51 straight games, which is the longest active streak in the NFL and the second-longest streak behind Saints quarterback Drew Brees (54). In a storyline that the NFL schedule-makers perhaps saw coming, Brady can tie the record on Oct. 13 against the Saints.
Brady-to-Gronkowski revisited? The Patriots have scored four touchdowns in 13 trips inside the opponents' 20-yard line, which percentage-wise ranks them last in the NFL. One possible remedy for Brady & Co. is the potential return of tight end Rob Gronkowski. The status of Gronkowski, and its trickle-down effect on Brady and the offense, will be watched closely.
Prediction: Brady often shines on the national stage. Based on the way the Dolphins drove on the Falcons for a fourth-quarter, game-winning drive, Brady has to feel good about the possibility of putting up some big offensive numbers.