Will Patriots’ Loss Against Dolphins Cost Tom Brady NFL MVP?

Tom Brady sandwiched more brilliance than most NFL quarterbacks will manage in five years into the period between September 9 and December 11 2017.

Near flawlessness, though, may not be enough to carry off this year’s league MVP award.

For the second time this season, Brady had an objectively bad game, throwing two interceptions as the New England Patriots lost, pretty shockingly, to the Miami Dolphins on Monday Night Football. Brady completed 24 of 43 passes for 233 yards and a touchdown. Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard picked Brady off on both occasions, while the 'Fins defense prevented the 40-year-old from completing a third down all game.

It’s not a loss that should affect the Patriots hugely in terms of the standings. Bill Belichick’s squad is almost certainly locked into the AFC’s second seed unless it can knock off the Steelers next Sunday at Heinz Field, though the Patriots could still be caught by the Jacksonville Jaguars as CBS pointed out portentously on Tuesday morning.

More damaging to the Patriots’ hopes of winning back-to-back Super Bowls was how the offensive line, missing starting right tackle Marcus Cannon, allowed its quarterback to be beaten up. NFL.com reported that Brady was hit six times and sacked twice. “In becoming the third team to top New England this season, the Dolphins successfully executed a tried and true formula: Hit Brady early, and hit him often,” Jeremy Bergman wrote. Admittedly, the Dolphins’ interior pass-rush led by Ndamukong Suh is the strongest part of their game, but the Patriots can expect similar heat to be brought by the likes of the Jaguars in the playoffs.

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. Tom Brady of the New England Patriots at Hard Rock Stadium, Miami Gardens, Florida, December 11. Brady threw two interceptions against the Dolphins on Monday night. Mike Ehrmann/Getty

As for Brady, individually? “There is no race. There is no discussion. Tom Brady is the NFL’s MVP and if he doesn’t win the award (assuming he continues on this pace) then the award is meaningless,” Steven Ruiz wrote in USA Today on November 20. Almost a month later, and Brady still leads the NFL in total yards and quarterback rating, according to ESPN. He’s thrown the third-most touchdowns and is second in completion percentage. But he now has one iffy game, against the Chiefs in the Patriots’ season-opener, and one in which he was outplayed by Jay Cutler. (The Patriots’ third loss on the season, to the Carolina Panthers, was absolutely the fault of the defense).

On the one hand, you can argue Brady’s absolute importance to the Patriots via those defeats against the Chiefs and the Dolphins. When Brady doesn’t play well, this team isn’t good enough to get into the playoffs as a seed, let alone compete for a Super Bowl. The Patriots are only 10-3 because Brady has been lights-out. On the other, you could start to argue a case for the Steelers’ electrifying wideout Antonio Brown, who won the game for Pittsburgh on Sunday against the Ravens and continues to stun both with his production and his sheer skill. “A receiver never has won the award, but Brown is on pace for more than 120 catches and 1,800 yards, and his prolific play might sway at least a few voters who are pivoting from the injured Carson Wentz”, ESPN wrote on Tuesday.

The Patriots at the Steelers next Sunday just got another subplot to add to an already fascinating storyline.