A couple of weeks ago, as I was watching Tom Brady have another poor outing against the New Orleans Saints, I asked the question on twitter:
Are we seeing the start of Tom Brady's decline?
— Armando Salguero (@ArmandoSalguero) October 13, 2013
I asked the question when Brady failed not once but twice to move the football in the final two minutes of the game against New Orleans. On one of those crunch time possessions he threw a lame, floating interception that seemed so unBradylike, it looked like Dan Marino during his decline.
Then Brady got the ball back a third time in the final seconds and led the Patriots to a game-winning score -- an impressive, arching 17-yard pass to Kenbrell Thompkins -- that rescued the Patriots from defeat and set my twitter followers off on a mockfest of me that only recently subsided.
All because I had the nerve to ask the question that given the result seemed so ridiculous.
And yet, as the Dolphins prepare to play the Patriots on Sunday, I must note that TD pass on Oct. 13 is the only one Brady has thrown in the last three games.
And that game was the only time Brady has completed more than 50 percent of his passes in the last three games. (He was under 50 percent against Cincinnati and the New York Jets last week.)
And Brady's quarterback rating this year is 20 points lower than his career rating. And his completion percentage this year is eight points lower than his career completion percentage.
So if Tom Brady isn't showing some early signs of decline, then the loss of Wes Welker and Aaron Hernandez basically has turned him into a mediocre quarterback.
Either way, that is so far not the same Tom Brady the Dolphins are preparing to face this week.
"I'm not buying any of that," Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said Wednesday.
And I'm not buying that Philbin, a New Englander and someone rooting for the Red Sox to win the World Series, doesn't see it.
Brady simply hasn't been as effective this season as he has in the past. And not all of that is a betrayal from the Patriots personnel department in giving him too few weapons. It has reached a point where Brady spent part of his press availability this week fielding questions about his mechanics, his touch, even the New England offense's poor production coming out for the third quarter.
"We haven’t done great on offense this year period, so there are probably a lot of places we’ve struggled: in the third quarter and at the end of games and third downs and red area and short yardage," Brady said. "So, I think we are trying to work on a lot of things, and it is basic overall execution. There are no special plays or things like that for situations. We just haven’t done a great job executing period at certain points.
"But you know, this a new week, so we are going to go out there and try to execute our best. If we do that, we’re confident that we are going to win. That’s the best part of football, is we get a chance to line it up every week. Guys are focused and losing sucks. It sucks to be around here when we lose, but it’s happened and you move on and try to do better next week."
Dolphins fans are jumping off the bandwagon without parachutes the past few weeks because their team has lost three games in a row. You know what? The Patriots have lost two of their last three outings and that improbable TD pass -- that single TD pass Brady has thrown in nearly a month -- is the only reason New England isn't also on a three-game skid.
The most convincing of those losses came at the hands of the Cincinnati Bengals.
The Bengals made Brady and the Patriots offense look ordinary. Pedestrian. Borderline inept. The Patriots managed only two field goals. Brady had a a 52-game TD pass streak snapped. He was sacked four times. Afterward, Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer got a game ball.
All of that is significant to the Dolphins.
Well, the Bengals on defense are basically a blood relative of the Dolphins on defense. Everything the Bengals do on defense the Dolphins do on defense. The approach is similar. The scheme is similar. That's because Miami defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle came from the Bengals and brought the system with him.
And Coyle has the advantage of having three solid defensive tackles that are a key to beating Brady because the quarterback simply does not like pressure up the middle.
"Brady is a pure pocket passer, as good as there is in the game and all pocket passers don’t like people getting into their comfort zone," Coyle said. "Hopefully those guys will be able to do some things in that nature, in terms of compressing the pocket on the quarterback, making him have to throw and not set his feet. All three of those guys is playing at a very high level and having the rotation I think has helped all of their play."
The Dolphins would love to get the kind of results the Bengals defense got against Brady. Frankly, the results the Jets got against Brady was pretty good, too.
If they do, what looks like a time of struggle for Brady -- or the early stages of a decline -- just might continue.