Patriots still in good shape with Brissett under center
Jimmy Garoppolo was balling before he went down against Miami. What ended up as a close, one-score game was a 21-0 demolition job at the point he was knocked from the game. Even on the play he was injured on, Garoppolo converted on a 3rd and nine, hitting Malcolm Mitchell for a gain of 15 to move just outside the Miami red zone.
Despite only playing 42 snaps, Garoppolo was one of the best-graded QBs of the day with an 84.0 PFF rating. (Check out his passing numbers below.)
While New England should have just hoped to tread water without Tom Brady for the first month of the season, they find themselves 2-0 and sitting atop the division in their customary place — and even with Garoppolo potentially out for an extended period of time, they’re playing with house money.
The absolute worst that can happen between now and Brady’s return is they lose their next two games with Jacoby Brissett under center, the Jets win both of their next two games, and they get Tom Brady back with one of the best rosters in the league, trailing by only one game in the division at .500 for the season.
In what often seems to happen, things are working out nicely for the New England Patriots, despite the challenges they’re facing.
The supporting cast is stepping up
They’ve won two games without their two most important, and arguably best, players – Brady and Rob Gronkowski – and have seen various players step up and be counted on both sides of the ball.
Against Miami, Martellus Bennett did a pretty good Gronkowski impression, catching five of the six passes thrown his way for 114 yards and a touchdown. Chris Long once again brought significant pressure, notching four total pressures and a batted pass from his 32 pass rushing snaps.
Even with Ryan Tannehill playing well and Brissett running a skeleton playbook, the Patriots were still good enough to hold on in this game.
Brissett didn’t attempt a pass that traveled more than 10 yards in the air, and only attempted seven passes in total. He had one scramble for 10 yards and converted a couple of first downs on sneaks, but he was clearly a caretaker QB in a way Garoppolo was not.
The Patriots were running their regular offense with Garoppolo under center, and running it well, but for Brissett it became a vanilla, ground-heavy system that he was asked to simply not actively hamper with poor plays. LeGarrette Blount ended the day with 123 rushing yards on 29 carries, scoring a touchdown and breaking four tackles.
Brissett has shown so far he can manage the game and protect the ball
Going forward Brissett is unlikely to absorb a massive amount more of the playbook, so the Patriots will run the same kind of offense. Next week they welcome Houston to Foxboro, and the Texans could test that plan, though they have been hit and miss through two weeks. They limited Chicago to just 73 rushing yards in Week 1, but then this Sunday the Chiefs racked up 112, on just 19 carries (5.9 yards per attempt). Only fumbles and trailing in the game prevented the Chiefs from just leaning on that run game the way the Patriots will likely do next week.
Perhaps the biggest advantage Brissett brings is that he has been careful with the football in his career. In his final two seasons in college he threw just 11 total interceptions. He was poor under pressure, completing only 39.8 percent of his passes during his final season at NC State when pressured, but pressure tended to cause him to stall drives rather than put the ball in harm’s way. He was a limited passer with a rushing threat, but wouldn’t put the ball in regular danger, again making him actually a well-suited QB for the Patriots to try and work around in a game-managing capacity.
Expect Brissett’s passing map next week to hit the underneath stuff heavily. Against Miami he targeted two screens, four out routes and two crossing routes. There was nothing on the deeper branches of the route tree, but he was able to hit the shorter passes accurately and at least keep up with the chains.
The Patriots are without Tom Brady, and look like they have just lost Jimmy Garoppolo for an extended period of time, who was playing very well in his place, yet somehow they aren’t even looking badly positioned with their No. 3 QB in the line-up.
Brissett may not be a fantastic QB, but he does look to be unusually well-suited to the game-managing role he will surely be asked to assume within this offense, and the Patriots have a good defense to be able to lean on as well.
Even if they don’t win another game until Brady returns, they’ll consider the games during his suspension a success — but don’t count out the possibility they win between now and then with Brissett under center.