- Mike Reiss, ESPN Staff Writer
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A weekly analysis of the New England Patriots’ quarterback play.
Rewind: It was a struggle for Tom Brady in the team's 13-6 loss to Cincinnati, as his streak of 52 games with at least one touchdown pass was broken. He was hit early and under pressure often (four sacks, eight overall hits). Final numbers: 18-for-38 for 197 yards and one interception. Un-Brady-like.
Fast-forward: The New Orleans Saints, under first-year defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, have generated pressure with the standard four rushers but will also bring blitz pressure and disrupt the rhythm of the passing game in a hurry. Part of what made the Patriots so effective against the blitz in the past was the trust developed between Brady and his pass-catchers, which in 2013 is still a work in progress. This sets up what could be another struggle for Brady & Co. against a Saints team that ranks fourth in the NFL allowing 14.6 points per game.
Welcome back, Gronkowski? The return of tight end Rob Gronkowski would contribute to Brady's comfort level in the face of pressure, particularly in the red zone, where the Patriots are struggling to turn opportunities (17) into touchdowns (six).
Prediction: Do I really have to make one? This is what I wrote last week: "Brady plays another game of mistake-free football and fires at least one touchdown pass, setting up what will be a top storyline in Week 6 against the Saints." In the spirit of holding ourselves accountable, I'm going to put myself on a one-week prediction suspension.