Pressure mounting on Brady, offense to carry Patriots

Posted Dec. 12, 2011 @ 5:54 p.m.
Posted By Kevin Fishbain

The Patriots scored more than 30 points for the 10th time this season on Sunday, and lately they have needed every one of those points.

In a 34-27 win over the Redskins, the last-place team in the NFC East, the Patriots continued to show vulnerability with a defense that easily can be scored on, but what everyone is talking about Monday is the argument that occurred between the leaders of the offense.

Tom Brady and offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien got into it on the sideline, jawing at one another and they had to be separated. The incident occurred after Brady threw an interception in the endzone on a throw targeted at WR Tiquan Underwood in the fourth quarter.

The timing of frustration boiling over might be good for the Patriots, as Sunday was yet another example of why the offense will need to carry the load if this team wants to return to the Super Bowl.

The PFW Spin

Brady did not make a good throw to Underwood, and it wouldn't be that noteworthy except for the fact that not only was it intercepted, but it also was far from Brady's only misfire on the day.

In the first half, Brady completed just 8-of-19 passes. He did respond to go 14-of-18 in the second half.

Part of scoring lots of points is taking advantage of red-zone opportunities, and the Patriots scored only one touchdown on four trips to the red area. From the Redskins' five-yard line early in the second quarter, Brady threw back-to-back incomplete passes, leading to a field goal. Brady, who hit Rob Gronkowski for a touchdown on the Patriots' first drive into the red zone, missed him again from the five-yard line late in the first half.

When New England got back inside the six-yard line in the third quarter, Brady threw an incomplete pass to Wes Welker and then threw the interception.

Overall, Brady was 1-of-6 passing for a touchdown and a pick in the red zone.

Last year's MVP missed badly on throws to Welker and Deion Branch, and both errant passes seemed to show a miscommunication between Brady and his favorite targets.

The signalcaller's frustration boiled over on the sideline. Remember last season, though. Brady was more emotional than usual on the field in a win over the Steelers, which followed up an embarrassing loss to the Browns. That win over Pittsburgh started an eight-game win streak for New England.

If Brady were frustrated with anyone, you would think he would be yelling at a Patriots defense that is dead last in the NFL in yards allowed. But the offense, believe it or not, has room for improvement. The red-zone inefficiency on Sunday is a concern, the running game has taken a step back and no one has emerged as a No. 3 receiver.

And then there's Brady, who could join Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers in breaking Dan Marino's record for most passing yards in a season, and his completion percentage is one of the highest marks of his career — 66.1 percent. But there have been enough times this season in which Brady has been off, and the pressure on him is tremendous considering how many points the Patriots will need to score to win playoff games.

As Nolan Nawrocki pointed out in PFW's "Scout's Eye," the sideline spat was handled well in its aftermath thanks to Bill Belichick's leadership, and maybe it can put Brady, O'Brien and the offense in position to improve to a point where it can win the shootouts it will need to in order to win a playoff game for the first time since 2007.

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