Best, worst NFL QBs of Week 13

Tom Brady and the Patriots have played five prime-time games this season. But none has provided more insight into Brady’s ongoing frustration with the team’s offense than Sunday night’s 28-22 loss to the Texans.

NBC’s cameras caught Brady’s extended “pep talk” toward a group of receivers on the bench. The apparent gist: Do a better job of getting open. ESPN analyst Dan Orlovsky also interpreted a discussion between Brady and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels to reveal that receiver Phillip Dorsett II had missed a double-move signal, leading to what otherwise looked like a bad overthrow in the second quarter.

That’s where we’ll start ESPN’s Week 13 QB Awards, our Tuesday assessment of quarterback highs and lows using unique data culled from ESPN Stats & Information and NFL Next Gen Stats.

A first glance at the numbers would suggest that Brady’s accuracy has slumped in his 20th NFL season. He ranks No. 29 in completion rate (61.1%), and ESPN Stats & Information’s video charters have credited him with an overthrow or underthrow on 21.1% of his passes, a higher rate than every NFL quarterback except Josh Allen and Jameis Winston.

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Brady was off target on 24.4% of his passes against the Texans. But how many of those incompletions were truly the result of poorly thrown balls? And how many are caused by receivers running the wrong route or simply falling short of Brady’s exacting standards for positioning?

Orlovsky’s analysis pointed toward one such instance of the latter, but based on Brady’s sideline reaction, it likely wasn’t the only one. Overall, Brady threw into tight windows — defined by NFL Next Gen Stats as a target who had less than one yard of separation from the nearest defender — on 27.7% of his passes against the Texans. That was the second-highest rate for any quarterback in Week 13.

There’s no doubt that, like any quarterback, Brady merits some blame for the performance of the offense. His third-down completion rate of 53%, which includes an off-target rate of 30%, is the second lowest in the NFL. Third down is when elite quarterbacks pull their team beyond the sticks, and not all of those incompletions can be blamed on the players around him. But as is often the case in football, the answers aren’t as simple as they seem.

Unlike Brady, Allen doesn’t play often in prime time. So you can forgive much of the viewing public for its surprise that Allen played a really good game in the Bills’ 26-15 victory over the Cowboys on Thanksgiving Day. Most of the attention centered around a physical fourth-down rushing conversion, but in some ways it was also the best passing performance of his career.

ESPN Stats & Information credited Brissett with a career-high 10 overthrows in a 31-17 loss to the Titans. Both of his interceptions came on overthrows. And eight of them came in the second half, as the Colts were outscored 24-7.

It’s only fair, of course, to point out that Brissett was playing without pass-catchers T.Y. Hilton, Chester Rogers, Eric Ebron and Parris Campbell. And don’t forget that Brissett hasn’t had veteran receiver Devin Funchess since Week 1. Even the Colts’ top running back, Marlon Mack, was missing from the lineup.

The difference between Brissett and Brady, of course, is that Brissett hasn’t earned any benefit of the doubt. As he heads into the final month of his first season as a starter, Brissett ranks No. 22 (of 31 qualified players) in QBR at 48.2. That leaves the Colts facing a more difficult decision than they might have anticipated after the surprise retirement of Andrew Luck: Do they need to find a new starter for 2020 or can they give Brissett a clean-enough canvas to convince them he should return?

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