Brady, young WR's working through 'tough' times

Brady, young WR's working through 'tough' times
September 9, 2013, 9:15 am
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BUFFALO – The fourth quarter had just begun when Tom Brady got that, “Enough is enough, this s*** ends right now,” air about him.
 
Trailing 21-17 and taking over at his own 15, Brady ripped a pass up the seam to Julian Edelman for 35 yards.
 
LeGarrette Blount rumbled for 5 then Brady bisected Kenbrell Thompkins with a pass for 16 on the left sideline.
 
Patriots at the Buffalo 29.
 
Brady reached for the dagger and threw to Edelman in the end zone. With defender’s arms waving across his face as the ball arrived, the ball ricocheted incomplete off Edelman’s forearms.
 
No big deal, Shane Vereen got 10 to set the Patriots with a first down up on the Bills’ 10.
 
And then, in succession, the reminders of how steep the learning curve is cropped up.
 
Josh Boyce and Danny Amendola crashed into each other on first down and Brady’s timing throw to Boyce skidded to the turf. Brady tried to hit Edelman in the right corner of the end zone but the throw was high and Edelman’s adjustment was awkward. That too fell incomplete.
 
A penalty on the Bills gave the Patriots another second-down chance.
 
Working from the Bills’ 5, Brady bought some time before seeing Thompkins at the back line of the end zone. Thompkins was covered initially so he hit the brakes under the crossbar. Then, smartly, he started heading to the left, sneaking away from the coverage. Brady threw but Thompkins’ effort to get left was tentative. Brady threw to a spot where Thompkins could only wave an arm and have the pass bang off his arm. Brady’s head hung back in exasperation.
 
Third-and-goal from the 5 now. Edelman and Thompkins to Brady’s right. At the snap, Edelman and Thompkins tried to cross and create some defensive confusion. But they crossed at the same time, bumped into each other, glommed up their routes and Brady took a 10-yard sack.
 
The Patriots settled for a field goal and the drama would continue until the final minute before the Patriots could put the Bills away.
 
Way back in July and August, the Patriots young receivers were giving unrelenting cause for optimism. Right places, right times. Glue-fingered. Confident.
 
Predictably, though, the first REAL game gave cause for pause. The Patriots offense is damn hard to master because the play called in the huddle is only a framework for a receiver. After the play begins, the onus is on the receiver to decipher what the defense is trying to do and alter his route in the PRECISE way Brady is expecting them to.
 
Until mind-reading becomes a measurable like height-and-weight, receivers new to the Patriots system are going to labor to get it exactly the way Brady wants it.
 
Especially when opposing defenses know that trying to whack said receivers around or disguise coverages will make the receivers second guess themselves.
 
Especially when opposing defensive coordinators know that well-timed blitzes or games up front will force Brady to throw sooner than he wants to in the direction of receivers who may not know what’s going on back in the pocket.
 
Thompkins was a perfect case study Sunday. Remember how Brandon Lloyd abused Ravens corner Cary Williams last season on back-shoulder throws along the left sideline?
 
That’s a hard thing to do for a receiver. Run hard, stop in the right spot, then reach behind yourself, using your body to shield a corner to catch a ball that was released before you turned your head.
 
Lloyd, kook though he was, could do it. Thompkins struggled. The ball was on him before he expected on some. He ran too deep on others. Then you could see his confidence start to sag as the undrafted rookie digested a game’s worth of harsh critiquing from a Hall of Famer.
 
It wasn’t all on the receivers. None of them had a thing to do with Brady’s goal-line fumble. And the day would have been easier for everyone if Stevan Ridley hadn’t deposited the football on the turf in the second quarter. Additionally, the blocking up front on the easy throws – tear screens to Edelman and Boyce, for instance – was choppy.
 
But Sunday showed just how steep the learning curve is going to be for Thompkins, Boyce, Zach Sudfeld and – when he gets on the field – Aaron Dobson. They are playing with the Stephen Hawking of passing. And they are just out of college.
 
Agitated as Brady was while the game raged, he knows the only way to get better is to go through the tough period.
 
“This is our first opportunity so things are a lot different on the game field and things are very unpredictable on the game field and nothing you can talk about, you are just trying to react so you’ve got to build confidence in each other and go out there and make the plays that you can,” said Brady. “It was a great experience, a good learning experience, all of these games are going to be tough and this is as tough as you are going to make it, down to the last play."