By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — A lot has happened over the past several months. Actually, a lot has happened over the last several days. And the last several hours. So the Tom Brady-Patriots split isn’t exactly on the forefront of everyone’s mind the way that it might be if we were all living in normal circumstances.
Yet stepping outside of our current situation and taking a big-picture view, the divorce between Tom Brady and Bill Belichick in New England will be remembered as a significant moment in sports history for years to come. And because those who follow sports are obsessed with winning and losing, there will certainly be a determination made on which party ended up being the most right.
And as it goes for Week 4 of the 2020 NFL season, the advantage clearly went to Tom Brady.
The 43-year-old quarterback earned his first ever NFC Offensive Player of the Week for his outstanding performance in leading the Buccaneers back from a 24-7 deficit to beat the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday. Brady completed 30 of his 46 passes for 369 yards with five touchdowns and one interception. It was his first five-touchdown game since 2017, and it was the first time he’s ever thrown touchdowns to five different receivers.
Tom Brady to Scottie Miller for 44 yards (GIF from NFL.com/GamePass)
Brady had earned 30 player of the week awards before, but all of which obviously came in the AFC, when he was quarterbacking the Patriots for a couple of decades.
On the season, Brady is now completing 65.2 percent of his passes, after completing just 60.8 percent of his passes in his final season with New England. Brady is averaging 7.2 yards per attempt, up from 6.6 last year.
While being “on pace” for stats through a quarter of the season doesn’t often play out in such a clean and predictable fashion, Brady is nevertheless on pace to throw 44 touchdowns this season, which would be his highest single-season total since … 2007.
He almost certainly won’t throw 44 touchdowns this year, but the fact that he has 11 through four games shows that he is as potent as ever for the first-place Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Things are going mighty fine down in Tompa Bay.
Meanwhile in New England, the Week 4 quarterbacking duo of Brian Hoyer and Jarrett Stidham provided a bleak picture of what the post-Brady Patriots would have looked like if not for the serendipitous availability of Cam Newton in late June. Newton had been a revelation for the Patriots, rediscovering his dual-threat abilities that made him the NFL’s MVP five years ago. But a positive COVID-19 test over the weekend put him on the sideline, forcing Bill Belichick to roll with the two quarterbacks he had on his roster in the spring.
By New England quarterbacking standards, Hoyer was dreadful in Kansas City on Monday night. He completed 15 of his 24 passes for 130 yards, with no touchdowns and an interception. He also took two sacks in the red zone — one which led to the final seconds of the first half ticking down without the Patriots kicking a field goal, the second of which was a strip-sack that resulted in a turnover.
Getting nothing at all from Hoyer, Belichick turned to second-year QB Jarrett Stidham, who showed why the team was lukewarm on him throughout the spring and summer. Stidham completed just five of his 13 passes for 60 yards. He did throw a touchdown to N’Keal Harry, but he also threw two interceptions — plus another one that was negated by an iffy penalty call, just before the touchdown toss.
Stack it all up, and the Week 4 quarterbacking comparison looked like this:
20-for-37 (54.1 percent), 160 yards, 1 TD, 3 INTs, 2 sacks, 1 fumble
30-for-46 (65.2 percent), 369 yards, 5 TDs, 1 INT, 0 sacks, 0 fumbles
Of course, the season is long. And the Patriots will get Newton back, likely once they weather their current COVID storm. The Bucs’ injuries are somewhat piling up, and ultimately, the Bucs may reveal themselves to be the Bucs, prone to back-breaking mistakes and poor coaching that all leads to a crash ending to a promising season.
If you’re looking to reach a cerebral, 100 percent fair conclusion on the Brady-Belichick split, you won’t be able to make it. It’ll ultimately be determined by whether or not one of the two parties ends up winning a Super Bowl without the other — and even that won’t be a scientific evaluation by any stretch of the imagination.
The reality is that the greatest quarterback of all time pairing with the greatest head coach of all time made for an unprecedented stretch of success in New England, and they’re both a little worse off without each other. But that story’s kind of boring.
So, if you’re into the entertainment value of it all and you’re trying your best to keep score, the past few days have been a major, major victory for Brady.
You can email Michael Hurley or find him on Twitter @michaelFhurley.