FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – At one point during NBC’s broadcast of the New England Patriots’ 34-27 victory over the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday night, analyst Cris Collinsworth marveled at the way Tom Brady was keeping plays alive with his feet.
Brady isn’t a running quarterback, but his willingness to escape the pocket and give pass-catchers more time to get open was notable.
Collinsworth was obviously on to something, because when Patriots coach Bill Belichick detailed his plays of the week on the team’s official website, one of the themes was Brady’s success extending plays.
Belichick pinpointed a 24-yard catch-and-run reception by Danny Amendola in the first quarter and touchdown catches by Julian Edelman (12 yards) and LeGarrette Blount (11 yards) as examples in which Brady’s ability to extend the play was key.
The two touchdowns came against a three-man rush, with eight players in coverage. Belichick noted how pass-catchers were covered initially before being able to find space only after Brady extended the play.
This has been a point of emphasis for Brady over the last two years.
At this same time on the calendar in 2014, he acknowledged, “It’s never really been something I’ve been great at – extending plays. I’ve tried to focus on that a little bit. I don’t think [instincts-wise] it’s there for me yet, but I’m going to keep working on it. You see then they happen they end up being big momentum plays.”
Brady has watched others around the NFL, such as Seattle’s Russell Wilson, Green Bay’s Rodgers and Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger, to see if there is anything he could pick up from their knack to extend plays.
Just three weeks ago, Brady added that he has worked hard to “try to keep my foot speed, not that it’s ever been very exceptional. But try to get out of the way of at least one lineman per Sunday. Just trying to make a few plays outside the pocket.”
His success in doing so has been hard to miss, as Collinsworth pointed out Sunday night.
“It's definitely shown up, and he's worked extremely hard to do it. He deserves all the credit for that,” confirmed Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. “He puts in a lot of time and hard work on that part of his game in the offseason and in his daily and weekly routines, incorporates those types of things. And for a guy who that was never something that people talked about being a strength of his game, he's certainly been a guy who's been able to make some plays in that area in the last few years that have really, really been productive.
“A lot of them have been in the red area and some on third down, but his will and drive to get better in an area of his game that he didn't feel like was as productive as he wanted it to be, is really where that stems from.
“Whether it's drill work or strength and conditioning or just change of direction drills, those types of things that he does, he's made it a focal point of his ability to try to make some plays when people play us certain ways and give him some time to move in the pocket.
“It's been a big benefit for our offense, and he's creating a lot of big plays in his own way. He's not going to run very far in terms of carrying the ball, but in his own ways, he's made a lot of big plays doing that and extending plays in the last couple of years.”