QB Index: Tom Brady under attack


Julius Erving once said that "being a professional is doing the things you love to do, on the days you don't feel like doing them."

Tom Brady is a professional quarterback, and we wouldn't blame him for not feeling like playing behind his current offensive line. New England can't pass protect, and it's short-circuiting the team's offense.

It comes back to coaching. Former Patriots offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia was the longest-tenured assistant in the NFL before retiring at the end last season after 30 years with the team. His groups nearly always were greater than the sum of their parts. Dave DeGuglielmo took over, Logan Mankins was traded and the entire operation has fallen apart. Scarnecchia is a strong candidate for the AP's inaugural assistant coach of the year award -- in absentia.

Brady is struggling to throw the ball deep, but too many plays have been torpedoed before they even had a chance. Pressure is getting to him in an instant and creating negative plays, and New England doesn't have enough explosive players to overcome long-yardage situations. During the first half of last season, I made the case that Brady was not performing like a top-10 quarterback. He was missing way too many throws. He hasn't been spotless this season, but Brady hasn't played poorly. The Patriots' problems have started up front.

Brady's struggles got me thinking about other quarterbacks facing uphill battles thus far this season:

1. Alex Smith: The Chiefs and Patriots are the worst two teams in pass protection, according to Pro Football Focus. Kansas City's problems are more about personnel. No. 1 overall pick Eric Fisher has consistently struggled at left tackle. Ryan Harris has been just as poor at right tackle. Smith is the game's preeminent dink-and-dunker, but the Chiefs are taking it to extremes this season. Smith didn't attempt a single pass that traveled more than 10 yards past the line of scrimmage last week against Miami. I didn't chart him for a single bad pass until the middle of the fourth quarter. They scored 34 points.

2. Cam Newton: We got distracted all offseason by the wide receiver situation, which hasn't been the problem. Newton's run game support and pass protection have been poor.

3. Philip Rivers: It sounds strange to say, but the Chargers' offense hasn't been that good outside of Rivers and his receivers. He's getting hit a lot, and the running game is averaging 2.4 yards per carry. Three tough matchups are a factor, but Rivers has carried the offense on his back.

All the talk above is starting to depress me. So let's spin this thing positively again:

The best parts of Week 3

Andrew Luck going bananas: It's like he read the column last week. Or like Colts offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton heard Indianapolis fans' complaints. The Colts came out throwing, and Luck delivered an epic performance. There were plenty of open receivers, but there were also plenty of plays in which Luck delivered the ball while being hit or avoided pressure like few others can. It was a near-flawless game. Enjoy:

Austin Davis' staying power: The Rams quarterback's pick six in the fourth quarter ruined an otherwise incredible game from Davis. He has great touch passes and throws well on the run. He doesn't have a huge arm, yet he connected on some pretty long throws. He goes to his second read and shows pocket presence like a veteran. Chris Wesseling points out that Davis has completed 69 percent of his passes with a YPA over 7.5 in each of his three NFL games. Sam Bradford never pulled off such a streak. Davis is single-handedly making the Rams watchable.

Drew Stanton's arm strength: He'll pull off some deep outs while getting leveled. Stanton can get almost too aggressive, but he does not play afraid. He was a huge part of the reason Arizona beat the 49ers.

The Kirk Cousins and Nick Foles show: More insane NFC East games, please. Cousins dropped a number of passes in the bucket, and Foles easily played his best game of the year while showing great toughness.

Blake Bortles' energy: Give credit to the Jacksonville crowd last week for loudly cheering on its team even when the Jags were trailing 30-0. Bortles gave the entire stadium life the minute he entered the game. His arm strength and ability to evade pressure are both better than advertised coming out of college. His first half of regular-season football included some incredible plays and plenty of erratic throws. It had more entertainment value than the last four years of Chad Henne's career. Watch the play 45 seconds into this highlight:

Guys who need a strong week

Aaron Rodgers: Something is amiss with the predictable Green Bay offense, but Rodgers always bounces back strong from situations like this. A 1-3 start, including an 0-2 record in the division, would make it tougher to r-e-l-a-x.

Geno Smith: The calls for Michael Vick aren't fair, but no one said life in New York was fair. Smith has been remarkably consistent this season. Every game has a lot of evidence that he's made progress, and three to four plays that ruin that progress.

Ryan Tannehill: Change is going to come if the Dolphins lose in London.

On the latest Around The NFL Podcast, the heroes chat with two-time MVP Kurt Warner, debate the NFL's top throwing arms and preview Thursday night's game.