Tom Brady lost his mind for a second. He pointed up the field in the direction of Jakobi Meyers and screamed the type of scream he once reserved for Bill O'Brien back when the Texans coach was Patriots offensive coordinator.
"Go!" he shouted as he walked off the field following a failed Patriots third-down attempt.
It was just one in a series of missed connections between Brady and his receivers in Sunday's 28-22 loss to the Texans. While Brady finished with a nice-looking statistical line - 326 yards, three touchdowns, one interception - there was a point late in the third quarter when the Patriots had just nine points on the scoreboard and Brady was 18-for-39 (46 percent) with one touchdown and one pick.
"We're battling," Brady said after the game. "We're trying as hard as we can. Hopefully we can make enough plays and be the best we can be. It all remains to be seen.
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"You can make a bunch of predictions and so forth. That's not what it's about. It's about going out there and doing it. A lot of guys made some plays tonight. Try to build on it, see if we can do better next week."
Brady took an optimistic approach at the end of his press conference at NRG Stadium, but during the game there were several moments where he seemed irked with the people paid to catch his passes.
The play to Meyers wasn't the first. The first was Brady's lone target to rookie first-round pick N'Keal Harry.
Harry's 6-foot-4, 225-pound frame is what makes him an enticing option on slants, but on a third down play in the first quarter, Harry was undercut. Houston corner Bradley Roby worked around Harry after tugging quickly on the receiver to slow him down. Harry stumbled and fell backward, Roby beat him to a spot and picked off Brady's pass.
"I mean, I guess I could've used my body more," Harry said after. "But . . . I haven't watched it on film. I gotta see it first."
Brady targeted N'Keal Harry on that third-down pick. Looks like Harry was trying to box out the corner as the ball got close. https://t.co/3Q8nBagFt7 — Phil Perry (@PhilAPerry) December 2, 2019
On the following series came the Meyers play that set off Brady. On a third-and-six snap in the second quarter, Meyers went in motion and ran a quick out route to the sideline. Brady held onto the ball for an extra second, and he gestured to Meyers to get up the field with the play off schedule.
Meyers didn't. The rookie worked back to Brady to try to give his quarterback a target, he said after the game.
"He was trying to telling me to turn up and go," Meyers said. "I don't know honestly what I thought in the moment. I tried to push up, come back, give him a target. We were just on different pages."
Jakobi Meyers has a quick out here from the slot. Turns into a scramble-drill situation. Brady expects Meyers to turn up the field once the play is off schedule. He doesn't.
Meyers said after the game he tried to push up and come back to Brady. "Just on different pages." pic.twitter.com/sKzUwOjXTr — Phil Perry (@PhilAPerry) December 2, 2019
That's what led to Brady's on-field explosion and then a lengthy address to his receivers while on the sidelines. The address just so happened to take place with Brady almost looking directly into an NBC camera.
I don't know what he said. Just caught "we gotta be faster." pic.twitter.com/046NxPA9Eu — Michael Hurley (@michaelFhurley) December 2, 2019
"We gotta be faster," Brady said, "quicker, more explosive, everything."
Brady seemed to lament that his pass-catchers were playing robotically and not aggressive enough off the ball. He seemed to be getting to the point of over-heating while trying to encourage them to play faster.
Not having much in the way of team speed is one thing. But to play as though there's an 11-point checklist that needs to be adhered to from snap-to-snap can make a team without much speed play even slower. That appeared to be Brady's contention.
It didn't get much better. And it wasn't just the rookies who had their share of miscommunication issues with Brady.
On a play in the third quarter, Brady gave Phillip Dorsett and Julian Edelman a finger-gun signal before the snap. Brady expected Dorsett to run a go down the sideline. Edelman was doubled and tried to run to space vertically. Going away from the double, Brady launched to Dorsett. But Dorsett didn't run a go. The ball landed about 50 feet away from the closest receiver.
Another receiver miscommunication here, looks like. Brady goes finger gun before the snap. He's expecting Dorsett to run a go. Brady launches. No one there. pic.twitter.com/oRAcaAFoTr — Phil Perry (@PhilAPerry) December 2, 2019
Later in the game, on third down, Mohamed Sanu ran a crossing route just shy of the sticks. He came back toward the football, which Brady typically likes, but he came back enough that he marked short of the first down. On the next play, fourth and one, Brady threw to Sanu again on a crosser. This time he was drilled by linebacker Zach Cunningham on what likely should've been called pass interference and had Brady's pass deflect off his hands.
Neither play was an egregious mistake. But neither play resulted in a first down. Six plays later, the Texans were in the end zone to make the score 21-3.
Brady had his share of wayward throws. He was nearly picked on his team's second drive of the third quarter. He was nearly picked in the end zone on a sprint-out pass while targeting Meyers. He threw once into coverage and was picked but had it back because of a penalty. Brady missed Meyers over the middle for a good gain with under a minute left in the first half on a drive that resulted in a punt.
He wasn't perfect. But Sunday night's game against the Texans - who doubled Edelman throughout the game and took James White away with a defensive back in coverage - seemed to highlight the fact that Brady simply does not feel like the receivers he's playing with consistently know where to be and when. In an offense where timing and communication are the backbone, that's an issue.
Apparently there's still plenty for the Patriots to correct as they (to steal a phrase from Brady's heated sideline address) grind this . . . sucker . . . out. Thirteen weeks in.
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