By: Ian Logue/PatsFans.com
September 10, 2006

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FOXBORO, MA -- If Sunday is any indication, it's going to be a long season for quarterback Tom Brady.

Despite the victory, Sunday's 19-17 win over the Buffalo Bills was obviously frustrating for the veteran quarterback. Brady found himself with limited weapons against his division rival, with the team dressing just three wide receivers for the game. As the passing game struggled, the offense was forced to rely on the running game, with Brady completing just three passes the whole first half. To make matters worse for Brady, the offensive line didn't exactly do him any favors. He found himself under constant duress each time he dropped back to throw, including getting drilled on the first play from scrimmage by a blitzing Takeo Spikes who forced a fumble that was returned for a touchdown.

If that wasn't bad enough, when Brady did have time to throw many of the passing plays took far too long to develop. It seemed like each time Brady let go of the football he either had a defensive lineman in his face or they were knocking him down after he released it.

You could see how frustrated he was, especially in the closing seconds of the first half when the Patriots offense took the field with 56 seconds left. Normally fans would think that with that amount of time left Brady would have had more than enough time to at least get his team into field goal range. Unfortunately with just Bam Childress, Troy Brown, and Reche Caldwell active at the receiver position, and with tight end Ben Watson taken out of the equation as an extra blocker, the final drive was less than impressive.

The team ran a draw play on their first two plays, with Brady attempting a screen pass on the team's third offensive play that was nearly picked off. The ensuing play was another draw play that was immediately stopped by Buffalo, and Gillette Stadium erupted with a sea of boos as the team then let the clock run out and went into the locker room down 17-7 at the half.

When asked after the game about the play calling on that series, Brady told reporters that considering how bad the passing game had been, it didn't surprise him at all.

"I mean I think we weren't doing anything to warrant us trying to attack," said Brady. "We were just trying to get out of there and get to the second half and regroup. We didn't give the coach any confidence that we could do anything with it, so I don't blame him."

The frustration for Brady started on the team's first offensive play from scrimmage, when he was blindsided on his first pass attempt and lost the football. Brady said after that it was his own fault for not seeing him and that it "served him right" for not recognizing it.

But Brady and the offense came right back, marching 80 yards on 9 plays, lead primarily by running back Laurence Maroney who had carries of 27 and 22 yards. All three of Brady's first half completions also came on this drive, the final of which was a 9 yard touchdown pass to Troy Brown.

From there Brady struggled, missing his next 8 pass attempts. It was one of the worst performances fans have seen from him since he's been a starter in New England, and the only hope they have is that recently acquired Doug Gabriel and draft pick Chad Jackson make their way back to the field. It's pretty obvious that the margin of error for this season is going to be very small, and Brady is going to need to be perfect with every throw. There were no wide open receivers on Sunday, and each completion came with Brady throwing the ball at just the right time as his man came open, including a perfectly thrown touchdown pass on a fade to Kevin Faulk who made a terrific catch on the play. That's how it's going to have to be this season, and Brady knows it.

As head coach Bill Belichick has frequently said, the team can only play with the players that are here, and despite his ongoing contract dispute, it appears there won't be a resolution and that Deion Branch may have played his last game in New England. According to Chris Mortensen of ESPN Branch may reportedly be dealt over the next couple of days, ending any chance of a return to an offense that could certainly use him. For now they'll have to make due with what they have and try to figure out a way to get the most from the current personnel.

There's obviously plenty of games left to go and plenty of time to improve, with Brady saying that he'll shoulder part of the blame for the team's offensive struggles. But deep down he's probably realizing that it's going to require a perfect effort on his part every week for the team to be successful.

It's simple. He'll need to be even better than he's ever been. It sounds simple for a 2-time Super Bowl MVP, but without a lot of weapons in his arsenal it may be a lot to ask. Needless to say with another divisional match-up against the New York Jets at the Meadowlands this Sunday, it's back to the drawing board for Brady and the offense.

"There's too many things we didn't do well today and I think that's why it showed we won by two points," said Brady. "Obviously we need to play a lot better on offense and it starts with me."


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