There was a lot to like in Brady’s performance. He completed 65.7 percent of his passes, including a 20-yard strike to Brandon LaFell as the first play of the game. Three plays later it was a 30-yard pass to Tim Wright. It was also a break out game for tight end Rob Gronkowski, who finished the night with 100 yards and a score.
“I told my brother before I came to the game, ‘I’m gonna make 12 look like Tom Brady again, baby,'” Gronkowski said. “And I went out there with my teammates and we made Tom Brady look like Tom Brady after you guys were criticizing him all week. The fans, everything. And it feels so good and he’s such a leader and he went over 50,000 yards today. He’s an unbelievable player and I’m so glad to play with him.”
But it wasn’t so much a resurgence of Brady as it was a coming out party for the running game. Running backs Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen combined for 203 yards on the ground for New England, which helps sell the play action pass.
A 141.3 passer rating on play action passes last night was boosted by his touchdown pass down the seam to Timothy Wright at 03:15 in the first, exploiting a hole in the Bengals’ zone behind the linebackers.
Last night’s performance lifts Brady’s passer rating to 107.1 during play action passes this season, but he is still at 77.9 when they don’t use it. In fact, Brady has the fifth highest difference in his completion percentage (14.1 points) when he does or doesn’t use play action.
The Patriots next opponent, the Buffalo Bills, will tell us more about Brady than the game against Cincinnati, since the Bills run defense grades more favorably to Miami than any of the other opponents New England has faced thus far.
In that game against the Dolphins, the Patriots rushed for just 89 yards, Brady had a meager 69.7 passer rating (51.8 percent pass completion for 249 yards plus a touchdown on 56 attempts) and they were outscored 23-0 in the second half.
“It wasn’t perfect,” Coach Bill Belichik said. “Certainly a lot of things we can do better. But we played hard, we made a lot of plays. That’s a good football team. Cincinnati has a good club. Marvin does a good job with that group. Tonight was just kind of our night.”
Let’s see if next Sunday night is too.