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Shield Talk: Brady, Patriots still going strong

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Shield Talk: Brady, Patriots still going strong

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) runs the ball during the first half of an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions in Detroit, Michigan USA, on Friday, August 25, 2017.

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) runs the ball during the first half of an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions in Detroit, Michigan USA, on Friday, August 25, 2017.

(Jorge Lemus/NurPhoto/Sipa USA/TNS)

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) runs the ball during the first half of an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions in Detroit, Michigan USA, on Friday, August 25, 2017.

(Jorge Lemus/NurPhoto/Sipa USA/TNS)

(Jorge Lemus/NurPhoto/Sipa USA/TNS)

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) runs the ball during the first half of an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions in Detroit, Michigan USA, on Friday, August 25, 2017.

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All good things come to an end, right? It doesn’t seem that way for the New England Patriots.

New England has had the same quarterback and head coach leading its team since 2001. Tom Brady is 40 years old and his head coach, Bill Belichick, is 65. Regardless of age, they still run one of the top teams in the NFL (ranked fourth in ESPN’s Week 3 power rankings).

In the 16 years since Brady has been a starter for New England, the Patriots have won their division 14 times. But how much longer can these two men keep doing what they do?

After a crushing Week 1 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, skeptics and critics of the Patriots were quick to jump on the idea that the Patriots’ dominance had ended. But the Patriots bounced back in Week 2, outscoring the New Orleans Saints 36-20.

More interestingly was Brady’s numbers; 77 percent on completion, 447 passing yards, 3 touchdowns, and no interceptions (two interceptions thrown by Brady were called back due to defensive penalties). That doesn’t look like the stat line of a 40-year-old quarterback.

It all starts with the offensive line. Back in 2015, Belichick broke the norms by rotating offensive lineman play after play. Offensive linemen usually play every offensive snap in a game and don’t get substituted out.

In 2016, Tom Brady was only sacked 15 times all season. That’s an indication of a good offensive line. To put this in perspective, Cam Newton was sacked 6 times in one game by the Buffalo Bills this past week.  One of the keys to longevity in the NFL is good offensive linemen, and the Patriots have achieved that.

But when your team goes to the playoffs every season, you will meet better defenses and put yourself at greater risk. During the 2016 playoffs, Brady was sacked nine times in three games, compared to the 15 sacks in 16 games during the regular season.

Also, this season’s Patriots are lacking big names outside of Brady and tight end Rob Gronkowski. With Julian Edelman went out for the season due to injury, the wide receiver core is now at the reigns of Chris Hogan, Brandin Cooks, and Danny Amendola, none of whom are top-tier receivers. After questionable injuries to Gronkowski, Hogan, and receiver Phillip Dorsett, the Patriots are lacking offensive weapons.

So how much longer do Brady and Belichick have? Not much longer. Brady is getting older. While he is still playing well at age 40, time takes its toll. And eventually, there will be a sharp decline in his play. And once Brady retires, no one would be surprised if Bill Belichick follows. After 18 seasons, countless playoff appearances, and five Super Bowl wins, Brady and Belichick might be looking for the happy-ever-after of their storybook career, and chances are they plan on it ending with another ring.

Student Spotlight:

Name: Jacob Denton

Major: Business Administration

Favorite NFL Team: Green Bay Packers

Questions:

Brent: How much longer do you think Brady/Belichick stay in the league?

Jacob: Tom Brady and Bill Belichick have been in the NFL together for 17 seasons, and it is difficult to imagine the league without them. While Brady is showing no signs of being a 40-year-old quarterback, I believe it is only a matter of time before he starts to rust and retire. Belichick is a different story. He could coach for the rest of his life if he felt like it, but being 65, I imagine he would say that he has done enough and decide to retire. I give both a max of five years left in the League, if Brady can stay healthy.

Should the Patriots be concerned with their lack of big name players?

The Patriots are a great team, no doubt about it. But there seems to be a hole in their team that hasn’t been filled. Sure, they have the quarterback and tight end figured out, but who’s the standout running back and wide receiver? LeGarrette Blount had been New England’s leading rusher since 2013 and he’s gone. Julian Edelman would be the go-to wide receiver, but he’s injured. The problem here is that the Patriots can’t seem to find their key playmaker. Yes, Gronkowski could be considered the playmaker, but without Gronk, there’s no one to take his place. Should the Patriots be worried about this? They shouldn’t be worried, but it should be a top concern to find some better talent than what they have right now.

Is Tom Brady still the best quarterback in the league right now?

I personally don’t think Tom Brady is the best quarterback in the league right now. My top three are Matt Ryan, Aaron Rodgers, and Derek Carr. It’s not that I don’t think Brady is a good quarterback, I just think his time in the spotlight is ending as younger quarterbacks come into their prime. If I had to pick one from my top three, I would say Derek Carr. Had he not gotten injured last year, I think the Raiders would have won the Super Bowl.

Columnist Brent Jansen can be found on Twitter @BrentJans. Any tips or suggestions should be forwarded via email to njt8879@uncw.edu.

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Shield Talk: Brady, Patriots still going strong