New England Patriots

FOXBOROUGH, MA – SEPTEMBER 09: Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots talks with offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and head coach Bill Belichick before the game against the Houston Texans at Gillette Stadium on September 9, 2018 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com

Bill Belichick is always quick to acknowledge Tom Brady’s Hall of Fame career. He’ll never doubt Brady’s toughness. But he rarely defends his quarterback amid criticism as passionately as he did on Tuesday.

Is it possible that the adversity Brady and the Patriots offense have faced this season has brought the two closer together? Because Belichick isn’t about to let people pile on him for missing an open James White on one of the final plays in the Patriots’ 17-10 loss to the Steelers. Whereas a lot of his praise sometimes sounds like lip service, this one sounds more like he’s sick of what he’s hearing about that game.

Sure, White was open. But it wasn’t exactly an easy play for Brady to see, or even notice. While the quarterback’s decision-making has been as inconsistent as anything on the Patriots this season, it’s not like Belichick is going to take the ball out of his hands. At the end of the day, he trusts Brady – perhaps as much as he ever has.

“Well, again, Tom’s a very experienced quarterback in our system, very experienced playing against our opponent, Pittsburgh, last week. He has excellent judgment and decision-making abilities and so, again, when the play is called, the ball is not supposed to go to anybody unless it’s a screen pass or something like that,” said Belichick. “We’re not trying to throw it to one guy. All the questions about why don’t we throw to this guy – because there’s five guys out on the pattern and we’re going to try to do what’s best on that play. In Tom’s judgment, which I would certainly not second-guess his judgment, which given the game situation and the time and all of the things that went into that play, he made the best decision that he thought he could make at that time and I’m not going to second-guess it.

“You can second-guess it if you want to, but nobody knows better at that time, with the ball in his hands, where he feels like he’s got the best chance. If we complete a pass and the clock’s running and how much time that’s going to take and what we have left, that’s a split-second decision that he’s got to make. I don’t think anybody will make it better than him. You can second-guess it all you want, but that’s the person we have doing that and we have great confidence in him doing that. It’s a tough situation. I don’t know if there’s a great answer when you don’t have much time and you have to throw to the end zone or you maybe marginally have enough time to throw it somewhere else if you can’t get out of bounds. And so, the defense has a big advantage in that situation. They played it well and we weren’t able to get in the end zone.”

At the end of the day, the Patriots offense is going to live or die by Brady’s decision-making. Grinding through analysis of single plays is understandable and perhaps a necessary evil when dissecting a tough loss. But it’s not like Belichick is going to sow any doubt in No. 12’s ability to make the right plays to win games.

His response on Tuesday was a bit refreshing, certainly more substantive than “We need to do everything better.” He easily could’ve done that but he decided to offer an impassioned defense of his five-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback. It’s a sliver of a good sign for the atmosphere in Foxboro amid what’s otherwise been a trying two weeks for the Patriots.

Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at matthew.dolloff@bbgi.com.