FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — There are 79 days until the New England Patriots host the Kansas City Chiefs in the NFL’s opening game, and as part of an ongoing countdown, ESPN’s Stats & Information has produced a numbers-based theme to mark each day.
As for the number 79, here’s the notable nugget: Tom Brady’s 79-yard touchdown pass to receiver Chris Hogan against the Baltimore Ravens on Dec. 12, 2016 was his longest scoring pass since an 81-yard strike to receiver Aaron Dobson on Nov. 3, 2013 against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
This provides a springboard to revisit how Brady’s long ball has improved in recent years.
Consider these stats dug up by Jason Starrett of ESPN’s Stats & Information:
In 2016, Brady completed 44 percent of pass attempts thrown at least 20 yards downfield. That was Brady’s highest percentage since 2007, when Randy Moss’ presence helped him complete 44.4 percent of such throws.
Brady ranked eighth in the NFL among quarterbacks on throws 20 or more yards downfield last season.
He completed 33 percent of those throws in 2015 (tied for 22nd in NFL), 28 percent in 2014 (No. 28 ranking) and 25 percent in 2013 (No. 34 ranking).
Brady had seven touchdown passes on throws 20 yards or more downfield last season, his highest total since the 2012 season when he also posted seven. That total was one more than he had in the previous two seasons combined.
When this topic was brought up to coach Bill Belichick at one point last season, he pointed out that a quarterback’s deep-ball efficiency is tied to a receiver’s ability to get behind the defense.
The addition of Hogan in particular helped Brady in that area.