9. Gronk is Brady’s
While Wes Welker, a favorite of mine, is Brady’s go-to player, particularly on third down, he isn’t as important as Rob Gronkowski. The Patriots issue, especially in these bigger games, is the offense gets too many field goals and not enough touchdowns. Gronk is a touchdown machine and he can’t be covered one-on-one near the end zone. The offense is just not as lethal without Gronk. His health might be the biggest factor in the last two playoff losses.
10. Less Brady, more team.
There’s a reason Brady has an estimated net worth of $100 million and makes $18 million annually, twice and three times as much as the second-tier stars on the Patriots. Because he’s great. Well, the Patriots needed “great” on Sunday night and it didn’t happen. Do you think Belichick is afraid to let Brady know the same thing? No. The thing is the Patriots could be better in 2013, but it still might not be enough with the emergence of Indianapolis, Seattle, and Washington, to name a few. Those teams appear to have franchise quarterbacks who are ready for prime time even earlier than Brady was. Brady is still among the top three or four quarterbacks, but no QB can do it alone. In fact, a great QB has always needed help (see Aaron Rodgers and two straight one-and-dones).
The best of the Patriots, from 2001 through 2004, was Brady making plays ... not every play. That means a good to very good defense. That means a bruising running game (when needed). And that means surviving an injury or two rather than collapsing like Humpty Dumpty.