While it was very clear how much quarterback Tom Brady’s presence improved the offense during the 33-13 drubbing the New England Patriots put on the Cleveland Browns Sunday, what was also clear is how much Brady means to the team in the huddle.
Not just from a strategic standpoint, either.
One of the things we overlook when it comes to Brady and the argument about his greatness is what he brings to the table in terms of leadership and attitude.
With Brady under center, this is a team more focused, more on point and more aggressive in every way. Watching them against Cleveland was like watching someone relax after a long, tense and stressful day at work. Yes, they won three games without him and yes, they looked good most of the time, but when Brady showed up, they amped up their efforts.
The offensive tempo stepped up a notch as well, and while the Patriots had been running the ball effectively, the team came out slinging the ball.
In the first half, the Patriots ran the ball just 16 times, with LeGarrette Blount carrying the ball just 11 times for 29 yards. Meanwhile, Brady threw 25 passes, completing 18 of them for 271 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
While they ran the ball more frequently in the second half with a comfortable lead—the backfield ended the day with 35 carries in total—Brady and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels continued to rain down fire on the Browns, throwing another 15 passes for a total of 40 attempts, resulting in 28 completions for 406 yards and three touchdowns.
They even kept attacking with under two minutes to go in the first half, despite a big lead. Sure, kicker Stephen Gostkowski shanked the attempt, but in the first four games, this was not a team which was going to do anything but run the clock out and take no chances at the end of a half.
This week, though, they came out throwing and attacking.
This is the luxury a player like Brady gives you. Not just physically as a player, but mentally. The coaches, the players, the whole team believes in a way that—meaning no disrespect to Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett—you don’t get with most other quarterbacks.
That’s not to say the team or Brady is perfect. They aren’t and they won’t be. Certainly, we’re likely to see Brady play the way he did last season with a chip on his shoulder, but he wasn’t perfect then either. He’ll make his mistakes and the team will take losses. That’s just the nature of the game.
With Brady though, this is a team which will see less mistakes, lose less games for foolish reasons and be better able to overcome obstacles than they were in the first month of the season.
Further, they know and believe that with Brady under center. Their mentality is just different with him around and they play with greater confidence.
Just another reason for the rest of the AFC to be very concerned that he’s back under center.