- Mike Reiss, ESPN Staff Writer
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A weekly analysis of the Patriots’ quarterback play.
Rewind: One week after he directed his 38th game-winning drive when facing a fourth-quarter deficit or tie (31 in regular season, seven in playoffs), Tom Brady and the Patriots' offense couldn't sustain the momentum in a 30-27 overtime loss to the Jets. The Jets' defense deserves some credit for that, as they have had Brady's number this season. The Patriots were a combined 5-of-30 on third down against the Jets in two games. Now some in New England are asking if we're witnessing the decline of Brady.
Fast-forward: The Dolphins come to town on Sunday, and if the Patriots don't protect Brady better than they did in the third quarter against the Jets, it's going to be another struggle for the offense. While Brady's accuracy and decision-making haven't been at the level we've grown accustomed to seeing, neither has the protection. That's been a surprise considering the starting offensive line returned intact from last season.
Getting Gronkowski involved: Anyone wondering if Brady was excited to have tight end Rob Gronkowski need only consider these numbers: Gronkowski played 51 of 79 snaps (including penalties) and was targeted 17 times (8 catches for 114 yards). The Patriots were also 2-of-2 converting touchdowns in the red zone, which had been a trouble spot for them.
Prediction: The running game becomes a bigger factor than last Sunday (just 20 attempts), and play-action opportunities help Brady and the offense get back on track.