Brandon Lloyd didn't have a normal Sunday. In fact, he was as quiet as he's been since the 2008 season when he was a spare part on the Chicago Bears.
The Patriots outside-the-numbers wideout had one catch for 6 yards. He was targeted on eight Tom Brady throws. Three of the incompletions could be classified as drops since they were on Lloyd's hands or body and not hauled in.
Earlier this year, Lloyd had a three-catch, 34-yard day against the Broncos. Last year, he had a a three-catch, 29-yard day when he was targeted 12 times for the Rams. In 2010, while with Denver, Lloyd had two catches on 11 targets for 31 yards. But you have to go back to December 2008 when Lloyd failed to catch the only pass he was thrown in a game between the Bears and Jaguars to find a less impactful day.
Asked about Lloyd failing to answer the bell, Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels explained Lloyd's role was "having an opportunity to go down the field on some of those different play-action plays."
On the three missed connections with Tom Brady, Lloyd slid and took it off the chest on a deep in-cut; he also dove and had a ball slide out of his normally vise-like grip. Finally, Brady hit him in the throat with a bomb down the sideline with a possible game-ender that Lloyd bumbled away.
"A couple of those catches would have been great catches and the funny thing is that we always anticipate that he is gonna do it because he has so many times previously," said McDaniels. "I think he will going forward. I think it was a matter of one of those days where we were close on some of those deep throws, there were some missed opportunities there and I'm sure Brandon would like to make some of those plays."
Lloyd has not been a disappointment on the field. He's got 35 catches for 407 yards and a touchdown. You can quibble with the yards after catch numbers (not very many since Lloyd goes down faster than a metal balloon when he makes a catch in traffic). You can quibble with his yards per catch average (11.6, which is less than the Patriots slot receiver and one of their tight ends). But you can't argue he hasn't been an outside upgrade.
Practice, said McDaniels, is where the down-the-field progress must be made.
"We gotta work hard in practice," said McDaniels. "I think that's where the timing and chemistry (blossoms) and then those deep throws that obviously have a lower percentage chance of working. You really gotta work hard in practice as much as you can in those couple of days during practice each week to try and master some of those things to improve it as best we can."
The mercurial Lloyd hasn't been available much after games. Entreaties to speak after the Seattle loss and during the past week were met with icy, wordless stares.
McDaniels said the Patriots need to continue to be diverse in where they throw to loosen up room for Lloyd on the edges.
"I don't think that's been a normal thing for Brandon to go like that and have one catch on so many different targets but it's not just him we have some other things we can do better to help some of those plays and situations," said McDaniels. "We have to do a good job of making sure that everybody's targeted inside the numbers, outside the numbers, down the field and put as much stress as we can on the field."