This article is part of our NFL Reactions series.
The Patriots are of course still a dangerous team and one that figures to pose an intimidating playoff presence a few weeks from now, but following their 17-10 loss to the Steelers it's fair to wonder if the Patriots dynasty is perhaps an empire in its terminal phase.
As the face of that dynasty over its brutal reign of 18 years, it makes sense to frame the question around Tom Brady specifically. Brady played 10 regular season games against the Steelers before today, and in those games he averaged over 300 yards passing while producing 25 touchdowns versus four interceptions. He finished Sunday's game 25-of-36 for 279 yards, one touchdown, and one interception – far from bad, but still a clear disappointment in a game where the Patriots carried a projected total of 25.25 points on a slate otherwise littered with low over/unders. And unlike Ben Roethlisberger on the other side, Brady doesn't have an injury designated for blame in the event of failure.
When a 41-year-old quarterback leads his offense to only 10 points against a team he's owned over a double-digit game sample, it's reasonable to suspect the mounting age as the variable responsible for the shift. But there are at the very least other contributing factors, and they might be substantial enough to prove the chief cause of Brady's otherwise seeming decline in firepower. Brady's touchdown percentage on the year now rests at 4.7 percent after posting an average of about 5.9 over the four prior seasons,