By: Ian Logue/PatsFans.com
September 21, 2008

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What a difference a week makes.

One week ago the New England Patriots were 2-0 and Patriot Nation had an upbeat attitude and a lot of optimism. One week later they're all in an uproar and wondering if it's time to start looking to a better year in 2009.

Obviously the devastating loss of quarterback Tom Brady in week one has put a damper on this season. Prior to New England's match-up against the New York Jets, the thought of Brady being gone for the year had seemed to put the Patriots' season in doubt and caused everyone to immediately write off the season.

Heading into the Meadowlands many wondered if Matt Cassel could play in a hostile environment and help "manage the offense" and play mistake free football. They wondered if he'd be able to avoid turnovers and put points on the board.

For the most part he delivered. Cassel finished 16-of-23 for 165 yards, and also didn't commit any turnovers. He let the running game and kicker Steve Gostkowski handle the rest en-route to a 19-10 win over Brett Favre and the Jets. It's about what you could have asked for from a young quarterback getting his first NFL start.

This week it was more of the same, as Cassel finished 19-of-31 for 131-yards including a touchdown pass, although he did throw an interception early in the game that he'd probably like to have back.

But this time he didn't have the help of an effective running game. He didn't have a defense that allowed just 10-points. Instead he played a team that had no trouble scoring points along with a runningback who after his performance resembled Walter Peyton.

Had you not seen the game and had just seen the score, your first impression would have caused you to expect that it was Cassel who cost them this game. You would have expected to see the stat sheet and find that he thew four interceptions, and that he was the one who was the reason why they lost the game. Oddly enough reading the reactions from people who actually did watch the game, you'd swear that was actually what indeed had happened.

Unfortunately this one's not on him.

Let's face it, Ronnie Brown and Chad Pennington played like Hall of Famers on Sunday. Pennington misfired on just three passes, and Brown gained 113-yards on 17 carries, along with throwing a touchdown pass. The Miami offense marched up and down the field at will all afternoon, and their 38-points are the reason why New England lost the football game.

Saying that having Brady in the game would have made a difference is probably true. In all likelihood Brady would have kept them in the game and at least kept the final score a little closer than it was. But Brady, like Cassel, doesn't play defense, and unfortunately it was New England's defense that put this one out of reach.

Let's be honest, it's not like Cassel engineered a lot of 3-and-outs. Granted he threw an interception on the team's second possession of the game, but he also did move the ball and managed two field goals and a touchdown on their next five possessions.

Needless to say he did about as much as you could have asked for. He helped the offense move the ball and did the best he could to keep the defense off the field.

The problem was they couldn't get off of it because Miami scored touchdowns on 5 out of their first seven possessions. Pennington and Brown more or less played a flawless game, and you can more or less be guaranteed that when head coach Bill Belichick takes a look at the film, he'll be more upset about the fact that the defense couldn't come up with an answer for the Dolphins' offense than the play of his quarterback.

Looking at the time of possession, the game doesn't look as lopsided as it was. Miami held the ball for over 32 minutes, while the Patriots had it for 27. The problem was that the Dolphins scored almost everytime they had the football, and there aren't many teams in the NFL that are going to win when that happens.

Thankfully it's only week three and there's a lot of football left to be played. Let's face it, Patriots fans aren't going to see the highest scoring offense in history the way they did last season. Unfortunately it's a new season and with Brady out New England is going to have to rely on their defense to keep them in the game, and that just didn't happen this weekend. So until fans see a three or four interception performance and a game full of three-and-outs from Cassel, it's far too early to hit the panic button.

It's time to think rationally and realize that the same expectations you had for Cassel a week ago were met this weekend. If New England's defense held Miami to that same 10-points, the Patriots are 3-0.

But it's a team game, and unfortunately part of this team didn't deliver, and that will be something that will likely be addressed over the break. After Sunday's game it appears that the bye may be coming at a good time for this team, although it's probably arriving at a bad time for the fans who are itching to see something positive.

So take this time to look at the first three games of the 2008 campaign and realize that this season is far from over. There are 16 other teams who would love to be 2-1, and with 13 games left there is obviously plenty of room for improvement.

New England fans pride themselves on being one of the more intelligent group of fans in football, and it's important that fans maintain the same rationale they held a week ago. As long as the defense does its' job, all Cassel has to do is manage the game and try to give them a chance to win it.

Needless to say as long as that means they don't give up 38-points again, fans have to like their chances.


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