The Patriots offense opened the season in record-setting form. Tom Brady passed for more than 500 yards in the opener at Miami while the offense topped the 600-yard mark. The unit scored 30 or more points in each of the first five games, and scored at least one touchdown in the first quarter of each game.
But the next five games were a slightly different story, especially early. The Patriots reached the 30 plateau just twice, and each time was aided by a defensive/special teams score in order to do so. And the offense failed to score a first-quarter touchdown in any of the five games.
So, the slow starts and dip in overall production have led many to believe that Brady is playing in pain. Reports indicated he's dealing with a bone bruise on his elbow and/or some tendinitis. He's also been seen warming his shoulder periodically in the locker room during the week, leading to speculation that he's dealing with a problem there as well.
Given the state of the offense, and Brady's surprising inconsistency, this week's Samsonite Make Your Case asks, Are you concerned about Tom Brady's health?
PFW's Paul Perillo says ...
Anytime the well-being of No. 12 is called into question, I automatically get concerned. Brady is the driving force of the Patriots offense and not having him operating at full strength is troubling. I've watched Brady as closely as anyone throughout his career and I cannot recall a time when he had as many off-target throws as he's had over the last month or so. That has me worried.
While I don't believe Brady is dealing with injuries serious enough to keep him out of the lineup, or even prevent him from being able to succeed, I do remain concerned that whatever pain he's dealing with is affecting him. Brady didn't just all of sudden lose his trademark accuracy overnight without there being a reason – and his longtime passing guru Tom Martinez recently indicated he had similar thoughts watching him from afar.
I'm not getting carried away to the point where a panic will ensue, but in the past we always seemed to find out Brady was dealing with far more pain than anyone realized at the time. That was the case back in 2002 when he played through a separated shoulder, in 2007 when had a foot problem and even last year when rib, finger and foot issues bothered him greatly.
I don't know how serious his problems are right now, but I know I don't like it.
PFW's Andy Hary says ...
On the list of concerns I have for the Patriots moving forward, Tom Brady's health isn't real high. We all know how important No. 12 is to the team and that it will go nowhere without him. And clearly he's been dealing with a little something in his right arm/elbow.
But unless I'm mistaken, in the four games since he supposedly got injured against the Cowboys Brady has had a passer rating of over 100 three times while totaling nine touchdowns and just two interceptions. A lot of quarterbacks would love to be so hurt!
I also don't buy the idea that the team's early-game struggles to score are related to Brady not getting loose. If that were the case, wouldn't he do a better job in pre-game warm-ups or stay loose by throwing in the locker room? I think the struggles are a systematic failure that's seen the execution on the running, blocking, passing and receiving all just a little bit off. They've also played some pretty good defenses over the last five games – Dallas, Pittsburgh, Giants, Jets and Romeo Crennel's Chiefs – and those units have made Brady and the Patriots work for what they've ended up getting.
Despite his metro reputation and Carnivale dancing, Brady is one of the overall toughest football players we've ever seen. He's played almost every season through pain and injury. This current issue, whatever it is, probably isn't in the top five of his career in-season ailments. He'll work through it as well as anyone can and remain productive throughout.
If the offensive line, receivers and running backs do their jobs as well as Brady will do his in the coming weeks then the offense will be fine and will get back to its easy, high-scoring ways against some lesser defenses. Don't spend another minute worrying about Brady's health. I know I won't.
Now it's the fans turn to cast their vote in this week's Samsonite Make Your Case poll.