Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Pressure no problem for Brady, Patriots

The Houston Texans were the team that came in sitting atop the AFC standings, but it was the New England Patriots that played like the AFC’s best on Monday Night Football.

Thanks to touchdowns on each of their first three drives, the Patriots jumped out to a 21-0 lead and all but put the game away in the second quarter. The early deficit was too much for the Texans, who fell to 0-35 all-time in games in which they trailed by at least 21 points.

Tom Brady completed 21 of 35 passes for 296 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions, his 18th career game with at least four touchdown passes (moving past Johnny Unitas and into a tie with Drew Brees for fourth all-time). The Elias Sports Bureau tells us it was his 14th game with at least four touchdown passes and no interceptions, the most such games in NFL history.

Brady had his way with the Texans defense for much of the night Monday but was especially effective when Houston sent added pressure. Brady completed 10-of-12 attempts with three touchdowns and a 99.9 Total QBR when the Texans rushed five or more defenders.

What made Brady’s performance against the Texans even more impressive was that Houston entered the night leading the league in opponent Total QBR when sending an added pass rush this season.

Brady now has an NFL-high 18 total touchdown passes with zero interceptions against an added rush in 2012. Matt Schaub didn’t have nearly the same success Monday, completing only 4-of-8 attempts against such a pass rush with no touchdowns and an interception.

Not to be lost in New England’s offensive performance is the play of the Patriots defense. Texans QB Matt Schaub was held without a touchdown pass for the first time since Week 6 as New England continued to slow opposing quarterbacks down the stretch.

Since 2010, Patriots opponent Total QBR is 37.4 in the second half of the season (second in the NFL). They ranked 30th in that same span in the first half of the season with a 68.6 opponent Total QBR.

On the other sideline, J.J. Watt was unable to be the disrupting force against the Patriots that he had been all season. Watt did not have a single sack, batted pass, or tackle for loss for the first time in 2012.

Looking ahead for these teams, the Patriots (10-3) are now tied with the Broncos (10-3) for second in the AFC playoff standings and hold the tiebreaker thanks to their head-to-head win over Denver in Week 5.

The Texans (11-2) remain atop the conference and, according to AccuScore, are still in the driver’s seat to earn the No. 1 seed. Despite the loss, AccuScore still has the Texans locking up the top spot in 63 percent of its simulations and the Patriots doing so in only 36 percent of them.

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