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Take Two-sday: Coming up short going deep

Posted Sep 18, 2012

New England missed a pair of deep balls in the first half against the Cardinals that not only would have given the Patriots the points needed to win the game, but would have changed the momentum and overall perception of the passing attack against Arizona. We break it down in this installment of Take Two-sday.

In his opening answer during his postgame press conference immediately following Sunday's surprising and disappointing loss to the Cardinals at Gillette Stadium, Tom Brady said the following:
“We just came up short. We have opportunities to make plays and we're just not making them. Just too inconsistent throughout the day to really put enough points on the board.”

While No. 12 probably wasn't talking about any one or two plays in particular, New England did miss a pair of deep balls in the first half against the Cardinals that not only would have given the Patriots the points needed to win the game, that would have changed the momentum and overall perception of the passing attack against Arizona.

The first opportunity came with the Patriots near midfield trailing 6-3 coming out of the break between the first and second quarter. Brady used a play-action fake to Steven Ridley to the right side to hold the defense, before dropping back to pass. The fake held the defense enough so that Brandon Lloyd, lined up wide to the right, was able to get behind both cornerback Patrick Peterson and eventually safety Kerry Rhodes as he headed toward the post. Brady had all the time in the world -- including Ryan Wendell in front of him blocking no one -- to step up and deliver the ball deep. Unfortunately as Lloyd drifted slightly across the middle from right to left, Brady's throw was over Lloyd's right shoulder and the two could not connect on the would-be 51-yard touchdown that was there for the taking. It's the second straight week that Brady and Lloyd failed to connect on a deep ball that could have resulted in a touchdown.

After Brady's ensuing third-down throw to Lloyd fell incomplete the Patriots were forced to punt.
New England missed another chance for a similar long touchdown later in the second quarter. With the game tied at 6 Brady had the ball in a similar spot, at his 47 in the midst of a two-minute, no-huddle drive with 1:24 left in the half.

Again, Brady had plenty of time to throw the ball. After going through his initial progressions to the right side and sliding left to buy even more time, he stepped up and unleashed a deep ball just inside the left numbers at the goal line to tight end Rob Gronkowski. The tight end began the play in the right slot, earning a free release before eventually getting behind Pro Bowl safety Adrian Wilson. Brady's throw was on the mark but just out of reach of his big, diving pass catcher, as it tipped off his fingers. It would have been a difficult play for any receiver to make, even more so in terms of a 6-6, 265-pound tight end 50-plus yards downfield.

That said, it was another big-play touchdown that was there for the taking for the Patriots passing offense on a day when the unit never seemed to get comfortable or get things going. On a day when offensive focal point Aaron Hernandez was lost to an ankle injury, these two plays could have made a huge difference against a defense that's made life tough on opposing offenses with regularity going back to last season.

Brady clearly would not use the Hernandez absence as an excuse.

“We have an offense with him in the game and without him in the game,” Brady said. “Guys go in and out and you lose guys over the course of a game and you have to be able to adjust. I'm sure he's not going to be the only one we lose this year at some point, but we have to figure out a way to still move the ball effectively throughout the course of the game – enough where we can score more than 18 points.”

Had Brady been able to connect on either of the two deep balls it could have made a huge difference in Sunday's outcome. Players and coaches often talk regrettably in postgame locker rooms about leaving plays out on the field. The deep balls to Lloyd and Gronkowski are certainly examples of that from the first-ever loss in a home opener at Gillette Stadium.

They're also the type of plays that Take Two-sday is all about.


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