PHILADELPHIA – Will it be good enough?
That’s the question many Patriots fans are asking after watching the Patriots survive the Eagles in Philadelphia Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field.
If you ask Tom Brady, the answer is a definite no way.
At least not right now, given his lethargic body language and curtailed response to every single question throw his way after Sunday’s 17-10 win here in South Philly. After all, the only Patriots touchdown of the day was a pass to the end zone by a player not wearing No. 12 on his back.
Even asked in a very lighthearted manner by ESPN’s Mike Reiss whether Julian Edelman was bragging after the game about his 4-for-4 career passing mark with two touchdowns and a perfect passer rating of 158.3, Brady could barely manage a grin and a couple of words in response.
“Not much,” Brady replied. “It was a good throw. So, thank you guys.”
That concluded a 2-minute briefing with reporters, one of the shortest in his tenure as Patriots quarterback after a win.
When Edelman hit Phillip Dorsett from 15 yards out, it gave the Patriots the lead for good and the way the Patriots’ defense was playing it was game over at that point midway through the third quarter.
In fairness, the touchdown came at the end of the one drive Brady engineered that was a beauty, an 84-yard march in 10 plays to open the second half.
The Patriots were 1-for-3 in the red zone, with the first two failures coming in the first half when the Patriots reached the Eagles 17-yard line and Philly’s 4-yard line on back-to-back possessions. Like in Baltimore two weeks earlier, the Patriots had to settle for field goals on those two drives.
“Yeah, yeah. I don’t have anymore (answers),” Brady said with dejection dripping in his voice and tone. “I don’t know.”
Then, Danny Shelton stripped the ball from Carson Wentz and Lawrence Guy recovered at the Philly 22. The good news is that it wasn’t a red zone failure this time. The bad news is Brady and the Patriots gained one yard in three tries and settled for a Folk’s third field goal.
Mr. Glass Half-Full, Devin McCourty, looked at it a different way.
“If we’re struggling on defense, they go out and have a good drive,” McCourty told me. “Even if it’s three points, they let us get on the sideline and figure things out. That’s the biggest thing, to just make sure we always complement each other.”
Their defense shut down a short-handed offense led by Carson Wentz.
“Each time we take the field, whether they are scoring a lot or not, we want to have that mentality to just complement each other,” McCourty said. “It’s big if we can get a stop and switch the field position. Then (Edelman) threw the touchdown to go and get a big score and two-point conversion.”
It’s very true that the Super Bowl LIII champs didn’t really find their identity until they were 9-5 and facing a pair of home games against the Bills and Jets to end the season. Then they discovered their run game and their ability to impose their will. Clearly, that sort of metamorphosis needs to happen again in 2019.
There’s another possible reason Brady appeared fatigued and frustrated. He took an absolute beating in the first half, twice getting bent in half and once taking a shot to the head as he was going down to the turf.
“Well, we just played for three hours,” Brady explained. “So, I think everyone is a little tired.”
This is obviously not sustainable, for Brady or any NFL quarterback who is north of 40 years of age.
Maybe Brady realizes his defense can’t run block or catch passes or get open downfield. Read into Brady’s postgame as much or little as you want. The cold, hard truth facing him and his teammates is that – even at 9-1 – what we saw Sunday in Philadelphia needs to change. What does Brady think?
“I don’t think it matters what I think, it matters what we do,” Brady quipped.
The Patriots need to find a way to score more touchdowns inside the opponents’ 20. That usually means running the football, something the Patriots haven’t been able to do with any consistency this season.
Run the football and you take the pressure off Brady. And that’s all Brady really needs right now. Sunday, after a ninth win in 10 games, Brady looked like a 42-year-old quarterback who needs time to take a deep breath and regroup, physically and mentally.