Tom Brady has been great at football for a very long time. Was 2018 the year he became merely “good”?

Brady won 2017’s MVP award while leading the Patriots to their third AFC title in four years, and he’s got New England in position to defend that crown after an 11-5 season and the franchise’s 15th division title in 16 years. But the 41-year-old quarterback fell off his 2016 and 2017 pace in the process, making some basic mistakes in the process.

Now as he stands on the precipice of his 38th playoff game, it’s fair to wonder if he’s due to bounce back and return to his baseline as the greatest postseason quarterback in NFL history or if his standard has fallen. Are we going to see the same player who recorded a 100+ passer rating in four different playoff runs in his career? Or will the Patriots have to rise up and win around a reduced quarterback with whom time is finally beginning to keep pace?

A look at 2018 hints at the latter — but that’s no death sentence for the Pats.

Brady’s numbers declined in a season when several quarterbacks took giant leaps forward

2018 was a big year for passers. The regular season saw the most passing touchdowns in league history and the NFL’s most net yards per pass since 1962. As a result, offense ruled; the only season to see more total points scored was 2013.

But while young players like Patrick Mahomes and Baker Mayfield were making major leaps forward and veterans like Drew Brees and Philip Rivers were establishing career highs, Brady reverted back to his career averages — which, to be fair, are:

a) extremely good, and
b) unheard of for a 41-year-old quarterback.