Brady Having Difficulty Connecting in the Red Zone to His Top Targets

Ian Logue
October 27, 2017 at 5:00 am ET

Losing Julian Edelman was obviously a difficult blow to begin the season and his loss isn’t the only thing having an effect on Brady’s totals down inside the red zone this season.

So far through seven games, Brady’s completed 22-of-38 inside the 20 with 10 touchdowns.  His 58% completion percentage is 11% lower than he finished with in 2016, having completed 43-of-62 (69%) with 20 touchdowns and one interception during last year’s regular season.

As it stands right now, Chris Hogan has been the player who Brady’s connected with for a touchdown the most thus far in the red zone, having thrown four touchdowns out of their five completions.  But they haven’t had much luck connecting consistently, with Brady having hit on just 5 of the 10 times he’s targeted him.

Rob Gronkowski comes in at number two, having scored two touchdowns out of the three completions Brady’s made with him this season.  But he’s another player who Brady’s struggled getting the ball to, with the tight end catching just 3 passes out of 9 targets.

2017 Regular Season Red Zone Receiving Totals:

The players he’s had the best success with so far this season in terms of completion percentage have been Danny Amendola (5-of-5) and James White (5-of-7), but each of those two players has just one touchdown each, with White catching his first of the season against the Flacons.

One of the craziest stats that sticks out is the fact that Brandon Cooks has just one target down in the red area all season, which finally came during the team’s win over Atlanta on Sunday.  He scored a touchdown on the play, which was highlighted by the fact Rob Gronkowski destroyed everything in his path while allowing Cooks to trail behind him en-route to the end zone.

It’s a huge change from last season, and while Edelman’s loss was a big one, it goes without saying that Malcolm Mitchell’s absence is significant as well.  Brady connected with Mitchell on 9-of-12 targets in the red zone last season, with the rookie scoring 3 touchdowns.  He’s currently sidelined with a knee injury, which is too bad given how much promise he showed last season.

2016 Regular Season Receiving Totals With Brady at QB:

From there, Martellus Bennett was the other big weapon for Brady last season, with the veteran tight end catching 8-of-9 targets from the veteran quarterback with five touchdowns.  Brady also had more success with Hogan last season after hitting 6-of-8 along with a touchdown, as well as James White, who caught 4-of-7 last season in scoring territory from Brady – all touchdowns.

That’s what happens when you’ve got a group of talented players who are all dangerous with the football, it makes it impossible for opponents to shut everyone down and it generally leaves someone open.  Unfortunately, this season, with no compliment to Gronkowski at tight end and Edelman missing from the line-up, the Patriots have had their fair share of difficulty getting any consistency.

So far this season, they’ve scored 21 touchdowns but they’ve had to attempt 17 field goals, with Stephen Gostkowski hitting all but one of them so far this season.  That’s a far cry from the ratio they had last season where they scored 51 touchdowns and attempted just 32 field goals during the regular season.

After finishing 2-of-5 in the red zone Sunday night against Atlanta, Brady talked about their struggles again on Wednesday and he knows they’ve got to figure out a way to start punching it in instead of kicking field goals.

“Well they’re important plays,” said Brady on Wednesday. “I wish we would be four of four but just missed a third down play there on kind of the scramble play and then had a third-and-1 at the one [yard line] and didn’t get in. It’s a small margin of error but I think we realize that. It’s a tight space.”

“There’s a lot of tight throws. It’s just something we’ve got to do a better job of. Those extra four points obviously are very critical and we’d love to convert more of them but we just haven’t done as well as we’re capable.”