EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- When the Patriots take the offensive approach they did Sunday against the Jets -- no-huddle, quick-tempo, spreading the field -- they're essentially putting the game in the hands of quarterback Tom Brady.
For years, Brady has been up to the task.
On this day, in a script unfamiliar to Patriots fans, he was not.
His trademark accuracy escaping him, Brady completed just 23 of 47 passes (48.9 percent) and fired one interception. He was also flagged for three delay-of-game penalties (one of which he took intentionally to not burn a timeout) in uncharacteristically losing sight of the play clock. That seldom, if ever, happens.
The ineptitude seemed to be a combination of two factors.
Although he dodged the question after the game, Brady is clearly not as comfortable as he had been in his record-setting 2007 season. His mechanics appeared to break down badly on his first-quarter interception, and his trademark pocket presence in feeling pressure and keeping plays alive hasn't consistently shown itself. Brady had produced some of his old late-game magic last week, which overshadowed some of his other struggles in readapting to NFL game speed.
Of course, the Jets also had a little something to do with Brady's forgettable day. They pressured him relentlessly, mixing their looks so it was difficult for him to tell which direction the extra rushers were blitzing. They didn't record a sack, but hit him seven times and pressured him more than that. A standard rush is four defenders, but the Jets came at Brady with six or more on 45 percent of his passes, according to charting by ESPN Stats & Information.
As Brady said afterward, "When you don't get to the end zone, it's not a good day for a quarterback."
This was his worst day since Dec. 10, 2006, which was the last time the Patriots' offense was held without a touchdown (in a 21-0 loss to the Dolphins).
At times, he had the luxury of surveying the field and still misfired, the delivery that hurt most coming when he overthrew receiver Julian Edelman on third-and-5 from the Jets' 7-yard line in the second quarter. Edelman was in space and probably would have scored had the pass not sailed well over his head. Brady slouched his shoulders afterward, realizing he had missed a golden opportunity.
The Patriots settled for a field goal, something they did three times in the first half when they could have opened up a big lead. They were 0 of 3 in the red zone.
"We're not really firing on all cylinders right now," Brady said, pointing the finger at himself. "To not get the ball in the end zone, that's unacceptable. You're not going to win any games if you don't get the ball in the end zone. We have to do a better job throwing the ball in tight quarters."
As for the Jets' approach, they came fast and furious, their intention to rattle Brady. It worked.
"If you get hits and continue to hit, it sends a message and speeds up the clock in a quarterback's head that they have to deliver the ball a little earlier," linebacker Bart Scott said. "Whether you get the sack or not, a shot is more important. A sack can be a wrap-up tackle, but a shot is a shot. A guy will have to take some shots. That's the price of doing business."
The Jets effectively sped up the clock on Brady, who admitted that sometimes he let the ball go sooner than he wanted, and other times he was holding on to it too long. Brady also wasn't helped by a few drops from his receivers.
While the Jets sped up the clock, Brady can only hope to do the same with his comfort level on the field.
When receiver Randy Moss was asked after the game if it appeared Brady was still getting back in sync in search of his rhythm, he said, "I love Tom Brady. Keep looking, we're going to keep it coming."
Patriots followers can only hope that will be the case, because what unfolded Sunday was a sight not often seen with Brady at quarterback. The game was squarely in his hands out of the no-huddle package, but the winning results didn't follow.