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Patriots Need to Keep Sunday’s Red Zone Success Going

The Patriots easily beat the Steelers on Sunday with one of their most balanced offensive attacks of the season. Tom Brady was outstanding and far from the mediocre quarterback we’ve seen thus far. He completed 23 of 33 passes for 432 yards and four touchdowns. Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Dobson and Danny Amendola all had over 100-yard games and each scored a touchdown, with Dobson scoring two. The defensive line with the addition Isaac Sopoaga successfully hampered the Steelers run game holding them to just over 100 yards on 20 attempts. The second half started slow for the Pats once again but they were able to rebound and score 28 points in the fourth quarter to secure the win.


Rob Gronkowski had reason to celebrate Sunday catching a career high 9 passes.
(USA TODAY Images)

With that impressive of a performance, it’s easy to think the Patriots have finally figured it out and it will be smooth sailing from here on out. The media is already saying “Brady is back” and expecting this high-powered performance to propel the team into the postseason. However, there’s one key statistic that the Patriots still need to work on. There is one aspect of their game that, although improving, needs to be better. That aspect is their performance in the red zone.

The Patriots were 5 for 8 in red zone opportunities on Sunday, one of their better performances of the season. Eight trips inside the 20 is the most they’ve been there this season. Against Miami they only made four trips to the red zone, converting three of those opportunities into points. Only two other times this season, against Buffalo and New Orleans, did the Patriots make 5 red zone appearances. Other than that the Patriots have been held out and forced to make their few opportunities count.

This season the Patriots are 18th in the league converting 52.78% of their red zone trips into touchdowns. Last year, they were third behind Green Bay and New Orleans with 67.5% of their red zone trips resulting in touchdowns. With Sunday’s game showing a more balanced offense with a high-powered passing game, there is hope the Patriots will make visiting the red zone more of a habit. It’s hard to score points outside of the red zone when you don’t have a reliable deep threat. Dobson took major strides proving he’s starting to pick up the offense but don’t expect his rookie hiccups to be over. Gronkowski looks great now that he has a few games under his belt and he’s back in game shape but you can expect the double coverage we’re used to seeing on him come back with a vengeance. And as for Amendola, a groin injury is one of those injuries that nags and has a tendency of popping back up again. A bye week may have come at the perfect time as the Patriots can use this week to recover and rest up.

Improving upon red zone efficiency will be key going forward. The second half of the Patriots season has one game everyone is waiting for. When Denver comes to town it will be more of an offensive battle than defensive so the Patriots are going to have to keep pace with Peyton Manning’s offense. The key to doing that is making as many appearances in the red zone as possible and making them count. With the bye week you can expect the Patriots will reevaluate their red zone performance thus far and make a concerted effort to improve it drastically.

After Sunday’s Win, Patriots Still Need Improvement With Tough Opponents Looming

The Patriots went off the beaten path on Sunday when they took on the Miami Dolphins.

Instead of crumbling in the second half, they started the game slowly and only managed a field goal before halftime. Tom Brady’s 25 passing yards were his lowest since 2003 and the offense looked pathetic, to say the least. It seemed as though the Dolphins were going to be the next AFC East opponent to down the Pats for the second straight week. Luckily, that was not the case as there are two halves to every game.

The defense worked all game and managed to completely shut Miami out in the final two quarters. Rookie defensive back Logan Ryan had a career day with five tackles, two sacks and one pass defended. Devin McCourty and Marquice Cole teamed up for a huge interception and Rob Ninkovich had a sack and three hits on Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill.

While he was relatively quiet as compared to last week, Chandler Jones came up with a huge block on Miami’s fourth quarter, 39 yard field goal attempt to keep the shutout alive. Big plays by the defense at crucial points in the second half helped lead the Patriots to a comfortable 27-17 win.


The Patriots are a different team when Stevan Ridley is running the ball.
(USA TODAY Images)

Offensively however, the struggle was real. Brady threw bad passes, Stevan Ridley was held out until the Pats found themselves down 14 points and Sebastian Vollmer got his legs tangled up in what looked like a painful pileup and was carted off the field. Belichick was asked specifically about keeping Ridley on the bench and it should come as no surprise he went with the stock “we do what’s best for the team” mantra. It’s quite obvious how different this offense is with Ridley in the backfield. He’s easily the fastest running back on the team and while a rotation is fine, it’s important to put players in a position to succeed. Even though he was benched for what seemed like an eternity, Ridley still led the team with 14 carries for 79 yards. Legarrette Blount had one of his better games of the season but I think Josh McDaniels should transition him to the bruising third down back. He’s built to push the pile whereas Ridley is meant to squeeze through the seams. A plus for the Patriots is they are one of the better rushing teams in the league and as long as they get the right players into the right situations, there shouldn’t be any issues going forward.

What will be and continues to be an issue is the passing game. Brady’s hand was noticeably swollen but at his post game presser he said his hand was “perfect” and he joked that he didn’t know the reporters knew what the back of his hand was supposed to look like. Whether or not that is true, remains to be seen. Brady was clearly off in the first half throwing an interception on his first pass of the game. He managed to go 13 of 22 with a touchdown but he only threw for 116 yards, a season low. Brady just hasn’t been himself this season and it’s evident in his numbers. He’s in the same category as Peyton Manning and Drew Brees but while they surge, he’s slumping. You can blame it on the receivers all you want, but Brady has worked with “nobodies” before and made it work. What’s troubling is the Patriots are still ignoring the middle of the field unless the pass is going to Rob Gronkowski. Sideline passes are great but it’s time for the Patriots to get back to those short gains and lengthy drives. In four out of their eight games this season their opponents have won the time of possession battle. With bigger and better opponents coming up, it’s going to be key for the Patriots to find a way to keep their hands on the ball.

The Patriots have gotten off to a solid start if you look at their record alone. Diving in further you’ll see there is room for improvement in all phases of the game. They’re lucky to have started off the season with so many divisional games as they’re easily top of the class in the AFC East. But with the physical Steelers coming to town next week and the Denver Broncos just a few weeks away, the Patriots need to get some consistency in their game. It’s time for this team to start making changes that stick and putting in a full 60 minute effort.

Patriots Absent in Third Quarter, And it Cost Them

Rob Gronkowski was finally back on the field Sunday but unfortunately, it wasn’t enough as the injury plagued Patriots fell to the New York Jets in overtime. The third quarter was an embarrassment as the team started the second half with an interception followed by three straight three and outs. They had led 21-10 at halftime but any momentum that was created was clearly lost.

Aqib Talib stayed home for this trip and his presence was sorely missed. Jeremy Kerley beat up on the secondary with 8 catches on 10 targets for 97 yards and a touchdown. The Jets were picking up third and longs all afternoon as the secondary struggled and the linebackers adjusted to a Jerod Mayo-less team. The Jets were 11 for 21 on third down conversions while the Patriots were just 1 for 12. The Jets also rushed the ball 52 times for 177 yards, most of which was right up the middle. With rookie defensive tackle Joe Vellano stepping in for the big Vince, you can expect more teams to challenge him and run straight at the Patriots defense. The injuries on defense are obviously big losses and overcoming them is going to take more than believing in the “next man up” philosophy Bill Belichick has subscribed to.


Rob Gronkowski was back on Sunday but it wasn’t enough as the Patriots fell to the Jets in overtime.
(USA TODAY Images)

Offensively, the Patriots have gotten into a bad habit. There are two halves to every game and for the Pats, a different team comes to play in the third quarter. In four out of their seven games this season, the Patriots have not scored any points in the third quarter. In each of the other three games, the offense only managed a field goal in the third. Not a habit you want to get into. We saw the New Orleans Saints score a quick 10 points to start the second half last week and this week the Jets put up 17 third quarter points. With Tom Brady as your quarterback, Gronk back in the fold, Julian Edelman stepping up with big plays and the rookie receivers finally getting on track, there is no excuse for a goose egg. It’s time Josh McDaniels rethinks his play calling.

The Patriots start so strong, it’s a wonder what happens in that locker room during halftime. Do defenses figure something out they didn’t see on tape before or do the Patriots just get comfortable? The Patriots are averaging 14 points in the first half so far this season. Compare that to the 7 points they are averaging in the second half this season. What gives? Yes adjustments are made at halftime but there is no way the Patriots aren’t adjusting just as their opponents are. The difference is the Patriots are not adjusting effectively. Instead of coming out swinging, they’re practically limping out for the second half leaving any fire or momentum in the locker room.

This trend the Patriots have found themselves in is concerning. The effort against the Jets was disappointing to say the least. The defense gave up two huge third downs including a third and 21. The offensive line struggled as Brady was sacked four times for a loss of 23 yards and the team as a whole played sloppy with seven penalties for 100 yards. You can blame it on a blown call by the referee but at the end of the day, the Patriots didn’t play to win. The defense has some big shoes to fill and once again, the offense has their work cut out for them. Hopefully next week against Miami the Patriots can play a complete game and give the full 60-minute effort Belichick is looking for.

Patriots Take Advantage Of Full 60 Minute Effort

As Bill Belichick likes to say, there are 60 minutes in every football game. On Sunday, the Patriots needed all but five seconds of those 60 minutes to beat the New Orleans Saints. For the first time in a long time, we saw the Patriots mount a heart-stopping comeback in the final minutes of a game. Kenbrell Thompkins came up with a catch where it counted as the Pats handed the Saints their first loss of the season. Injuries may have piled up as the game wore on but the heart this team showed is something to be proud of.


Rookies Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins got a big confidence boost after a last minute win against the Saints on Sunday.
(USA TODAY Images)

Dan Connolly, Aqib Talib and Danny Amendola all left the game with injuries. Tom Brady was sacked five times and Aaron Dobson dropped a sure touchdown pass. These are all things we have become accustomed to, as this season has gone on. Rookies being rookies and injuries to guys who are impact players. The difference this time around was the fire in Brady’s eyes when he was given the ball with just over a minute remaining in the game. He came out throwing passes like we haven’t seen lately. His accuracy was on point as he started off the drive with a 23 yard pass to Julian Edelman. That put in motion a drive where, wouldn’t you know it, Austin Collie came up huge. With Amendola out after a nasty hit to the head, Collie fell right into place converting a fourth and four to keep the Patriots’ hope alive. The next pass of the game was the touchdown to Thompkins that lifted the Patriots over the Saints 30-27.

While this win was certainly exciting, the troubles of the offense are still a concern. During the first half this team looked unstoppable. Michael Hoomanawanui had a great game catching the ball all four times he was targeted. Unfortunately, the use of the tight end dropped off in the second. The offense that looked like that of years past in the first, looked completely different in the second. To start this game the Patriots were getting into stride and utilizing the no huddle. The speed of the offense seemed to be too much for the Saints defense to handle. Then, in the second half, it seemed as though the tables had turned. The Saints put up a quick ten points and the Patriots offense was sitting quiet.

Part of the problem was the play calling which has been a concern all year. Josh McDaniels hasn’t been putting a lot of variation into the Patriots’ drives. If a drive starts with a run, chances are it will continue as such. What is missing is the short, dink and dive passes down the middle of the field. These are the drives that eat up clock and end with a touchdown. The Patriots have turned into a sideline offense and that will start to hurt them against better defenses. The good news is Dobson and Thompkins are coming along and that is evident by Brady’s ability to utilize the no huddle. The bad news is, they still have butter fingers from time to time. They can make those outstanding catches but drop a four yard pass. Patience is going to be the name of the game when it comes to these receivers. On the positive side Collie showed he can step in and be a valuable and reliable member of this offense. We’ll just have to see how much impact he’ll have as Amendola continues to deal with his injuries.

The Saints were a good test for the Patriots. Drew Brees is an outstanding quarterback and once again Talib and the defense showed they can effectively neutralize a team’s number one weapon. As the defense continues to hold this team together, it was nice to finally see some fire from the offense. The final seconds of this game were a big confidence boost for this team and hopefully that will carry over for the next few weeks.

Will He Or Won’t He? Patriots Fans Wait on Gronk

We’re all guilty of saying or thinking some version of the following: “Well once Gronk comes back it will get better, the offense will get on track.”

It’s been five weeks, five grueling games and what we have now is one frustrated quarterback and a fan base that has heard quite enough of the phrase “day to day”.


Having Rob Gronkowski back in the fold will certainly help, but it isn’t the one thing that will get the Patriots offense back on track.
(USA TODAY Images)

Since the beginning of the season Bill Belichick hasn’t had much to say about the status of Rob Gronkowski. The fact that he didn’t start the season on injured reserved seemed promising but now it’s week 6 and fans are ready for Gronk to get in the game. He’s become a sort of saving grace for a lackluster offense.

What isn’t exactly fair is the weight that has been placed on his return. Yes it will make a differences and yes it’s better to have him on the field than on the bench, but don’t expect his return to completely change this team. Gronk isn’t the little known tight end anymore. Defenses are ready for him and have a plan in place to limit his impact. Tom Brady hasn’t been throwing the type of passes we’ve seen in the past and his age is starting to show, even if we don’t want to admit it. This opens up opportunities for a defender to deflect a pass or capitalize on a mis-thrown ball and create a turnover. The window gets bigger in double coverage which we can expect a lot of when Gronk finally does return.

One benefit of this is with two men on him, someone else is left open. The concern is, will that receiver be able to come up with the play when called upon? That is something Josh McDaniels will need to prep his offense for. Hopefully the Patriots’ rookie receivers can adjust and we can start seeing some drives that put points on the board and take minutes off the clock. The Patriots offense thus far has lacked any sort of rhythm when trying to get downfield.

The return of a playmaker like Gronk will effect the dynamic of this offense much more than just having him as a reliable receiver. His blocking will open up room for the run and the threat of him in the passing game will help the other receivers. Brady hasn’t made much use of the tight ends so far this season and we know that will change once Gronk enters the game. Just don’t expect him to be the guy who takes this team to the promise land. One player can’t do it alone and it’s up to the coaches, Brady and the team as a whole to adjust and make it work.

For the Patriots, Sunday’s Game Was An Offensive Struggle

The rain started coming down in sheets as the Patriots made their last-ditch effort to mount a comeback against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday. Unfortunately the wet conditions made for six incomplete passes in the Patriots final drive and a Tom Brady interception sealed the 13-6 victory for the Bengals. Aside from some solid play by the linebackers, there was little to cheer about from the Patriots sideline.


Brandon Spikes led the defense but it wasn’t enough as the offense came up short.
(USA TODAY Images)

Brandon Spikes had his best game of the season and led the linebacking core with 12 tackles, two of which were for a loss. Jerod Mayo was also impressive with 11 tackles and a half a sack. And in his second game of the year, defensive tackle Chris Jones stood his ground, getting credit for one and a half sacks and four tackles, one of which was for a loss. As Patriots fans we are not used to such a defensive battle but with the way this offense is struggling, we may just have to get used to it.

The Patriots were 1 for 12 on third down opportunities and only amassed 248 total yards. Brady’s streak of 52 games with a touchdown pass came to a screeching halt as he only completed 18 of 38 passes for 197 yards, no touchdowns and an interception. He felt the pressure all afternoon as he was sacked four times for a loss of 31 yards. The offense averaged 4.4 yards per pass and only 4.6 yards per rush. Overall an unimpressive performance to say the least.

Cincinnati’s offense wasn’t much better but they aren’t working with a quarterback the caliber of Brady. Andy Dalton for his part completed 20 of 27 passes, was sacked four times for a loss of 33 yards, and threw one interception with no touchdowns. Aqib Talib kept AJ Green in check, holding him to only five receptions for 61 yards. And the Wilfork-less defensive line showed they would bend but not break. They managed to keep the Bengals out of the end zone until the fourth quarter and only gave up 162 yards on the ground.

As for the Patriots offense, the play calling was questionable. Cincinnati from the start showed they had a very solid defense and penetrating it proved to be a challenge. With Stevan Ridley sidelined and Brandon Bolden and Legarrette Blount left to shoulder the load, the run game obviously wasn’t going to be as strong. Blount finished the game with 12 carries for 51 yards and Bolden had five carries for 24 yards. What was missed was the speed of Ridley and Shane Vereen. Bolden just doesn’t have the lateral speed necessary to escape linebackers and Blount is more of a physical, pounding back than a finesse runner.

Overall the Patriots seemed to force the run when it clearly wasn’t working and they went for the big yard plays rather than the small gains in the passing game. With Danny Amendola back in action the Patriots should have called on him for those Welker like receptions. What they did instead was rely on him for longer gains and while he came up big with some athletic catches, unfortunately for the Patriots, it just wasn’t enough. Having him back was helpful but it didn’t have the impact it could have. It seemed as though Josh McDaniels didn’t have a grasp on what the Bengals were doing and he was out-coached by defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer.

There will be a lot of tape to breakdown from this game and as the theme of the season continues, it will be the offense who needs to make the most adjustments. From the top down, nothing was working and with Drew Brees and the Saints coming to town next week, a performance like this cannot happen again. As it always is, this team is all about moving forward and with Rob Gronkowski hopefully coming back, the offense stands a chance to figure it out and finally come together.

A Tale of Two Quarterbacks As Patriots Offense Rebounds

Sunday’s game against Tampa Bay was a tale of two closely matched quarterbacks. Closely matched based off of the stats page that is.

Buccaneers’ quarterback Josh Freeman ranks last in the league in completion percentage, having completed just 45.3% of his passes. But Tom Brady isn’t too far behind, ranking 31st in the league and completing just 52.7% of his passes so far this season. Both quarterbacks have been sacked four times and both have a quarterback rating under 75. Brady wins the battle of yards with 473 yards thrown, putting him 22nd in the league while Freeman ranks 30th with 335 total yards. Who would have thought statistically a future hall of famer could be linked so closely to a fifth year starter in Tampa Bay?

Luckily for the Patriots, the comparison can stop right there. Tom Brady proved he was the better quarterback and things on the offensive side of the ball took a positive turn Sunday afternoon. There was balance and sustained drives, something we haven’t seen yet this season. The Pats ran the ball 33 times averaging 4.7 yards per carry and put the ball in the air 36 times for a total of 202 yards. With the defense holding the Buccaneers to just 3 points, it was nice to see the offense do their part as well.


Tom Brady and his receivers are finally getting on the same page.
(USA TODAY Images)

For the first time it wasn’t the Tom Brady, Julian Edelman show as rookie receivers Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins got their legs under them and, more importantly, their hands on the ball. Dobson led all receivers with 7 catches for 52 yards and Thompkins scored both of the Patriots touchdowns and finished with 3 catches for 41 yards. Running back Brandon Bolden was welcomed back into the Patriots fold after missing the first two games with an injury and he finished the day with 5 receptions for 49 yards, averaging 9.8 yards per carry.

Brady made use of six receivers against the Bucs and was sharing the wealth. It isn’t always easy going back to a guy who dropped a pass or ran a wrong route, but Brady is making it work. He likely knows his options are limited but time is proving to be this team’s most valuable asset as these young receivers continue to grow.

On the ground the Pats were equally as successful. LeGarrette Blount made his presence known, leading the rushing core with 14 carries for 65 yards. Stevan Ridley and Bolden were the other players pushing the pile and finished the day with 35 and 51 yards respectively. It speaks volumes to the strength of the offensive line when the run game is as successful as it was on Sunday. There were sizable holes that made wide running lanes. Once again, the ability of offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia never ceases to amaze. He can turn nothing into something and it is because of his coaching that the Patriots run game stands a chance.

As the offense turned the corner it was nice to see the defense hold their steady tune. There were some moments of a secondary collapse but they came up big when they needed to. Aquib Talib had a big interception nearing the end of the first half and Brandon Spikes was all over the field with seven tackles, five of which were on his own. Four members of the defensive line contributed to the three sacks on Freeman and six players hit him at least once. It was a well rounded effort that shut the door on any hope of keeping Brady and Freeman close in the stats.

The day started with two quarterbacks at the bottom of the pile, working to hit their stride. In the end Brady proved why he’s one of the greatest to ever play the game and how quickly he can redirect a team. Only 10 days of practice separated the team’s Thursday night victory over the Jets and Sunday’s more dominant performance over Tampa Bay. After some lackluster performances Brady is finally hitting his targets and building trust with his new teammates. They may not be out of the hole quite yet but they’re getting there and with Rob Gronkowski set to return next week, the only way this team can go is up.

New England’s Defense Has Been the Hero for the Patriots So Far This Season

The days of relying on Tom Brady’s arm to lead the Patriots to victory seem to be over, at least for the short term. With a group of rookie receivers and a depleted running game, this offense looks a lot different than in years past. Once known for explosive drives and the ability to score in a matter of minutes, they’re now struggling to find consistency. With dropped passes and missed assignments, at times it can be difficult to watch. Kenbrell Thompkins looked great in training camp but has struggled so far this season and Aaron Dobson showed promise with his first NFL catch going for a touchdown against the Jets, but he fell off quickly after that. Julian Edelman is leading the offense now with the injuries to Danny Amendola and Shane Vereen but he can’t do it alone. Luckily for him, and for the rest of the offense, there seems to be a new hero in town.


Chandler Jones and the defense have stepped up their game as the offense continues to struggle.
(USA TODAY Images)

The bright spot in the Patriots not so pretty win over the Jets on Thursday night was the defense. The Jets had four turnovers in the game and rookie quarterback Geno Smith was sacked four times for a loss of 25 yards. Aqib Talib for his part forced a fumble and had two interceptions while Alfonzo Dennard also had an interception. Overall the secondary came to play. Kyle Arrington had another impressive performance and it seems all he needed was a new number to play at a higher level. If he can keep this up and Dennard can continue to improve, the hole that has become all too familiar in the Patriots secondary, might be closing up for good. That would be a huge improvement for this team who needs to keep opposing quarterbacks at bay. By shutting down the passing game they’re doing a big service to the team as a whole.

In addition to the secondary showing some growth so far this season, the linebackers and defensive line have also stepped up their game. As the offense struggles the defense has clearly taken it upon themselves to be the “next man up” as Bill Belichick likes to say. We’re more accustomed to seeing the offense bail out the defense but at least for the start of this season, it appears as though the tables have turned. Luckily, they’re up to the challenge. Chandler Jones is performing at the level we all expected him to be at. Against the Jets he had two sacks and two tackles for a loss. It’s too early to tell if we finally have the outside pass rusher that we have been craving, but his performance in the first two weeks of the season is promising.

But it’s not only the defense that has been stepping up, rookie punter Ryan Allen has also been doing his part. While we never like to see a 3 and out from the Patriots or a punt in general, Allen so far has proven why he won the job. He has punted for a league high 750 yards with players averaging 3.5 return yards. He’s also forced a league high 3 touchbacks. If he can continue at this pace that’ll only help the defense.

While we wait for the offense to find their stride, the Pats need to continue to be as shutdown as possible in all other facets of the game. As with years past, this team will continue to improve as the season goes on. Brady is one of the greatest to ever play the game and there should be no doubt that he’ll get these rookie receivers running in the right direction. It’s just going to take some time. This season has already proven to be a lot different than we’re used to but sometimes a change of pace is just what the doctor ordered.

Old Habits and New Problems Surface In Week One Win

The Buffalo Bills always give the Patriots a run for their money. Opening day proved to be no different as rookie quarterback EJ Manuel showed poise in leading his team against Tom Brady. Manuel completed 18 of his 27 passes for 150 yards and two touchdowns giving him a total quarterback rating of 105.5. Brady on the other hand went 29 for 52 for 288 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. His total QBR was a low 76.4, his lowest Week One rating since 2003. Not exactly the start the Patriots wanted, but a win is a win.

While Buffalo was busy giving the Patriots every opportunity to bury them, to the tune of 10 penalties for 75 yards, the Pats were not so quick to capitalize. One glaring weakness that cannot be ignored is that this offense, needs some work. The days of Wes Welker, Danny Woodhead and Randy Moss are gone and now we are presented with Shane Vereen, Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola. Unfortunately for the Patriots, these three players seem to be the only valuable and reliable ones.


Danny Amendola came up huge for Tom Brady against the Bills but with his health an issue, the Patriots need to develop more offensively. (FILE:USPresswire)

In his New England debut Amendola caught 10 passes for 104 yards while Edelman scored two touchdowns and had 7 catches for 79 yards. Vereen for his part led the rushing core with 14 carries for 101 yards and he was the third most targeted receiver behind Amendola and Kenbrell Thompkins who both had 14 targets. Thompkins, who was a standout during the preseason, failed to meet expectations against the Bills. His footwork was poor and he didn’t seem to be on the same page as Brady. All things that can be fixed but this is a rookie growing pain the Patriots are not used to having. It was difficult to watch someone with such promise struggle so much.

It’s only Week One and there is plenty more football to play, but seeing the offense we have come to rely on crumble against a depleted Buffalo Bills defense, was eye opening to say the least. Luckily the Pats have a two more games against lesser opponents before they meet the Atlanta Falcons in Week Four. Hopefully that is enough time for them to fix this newly found issue with the offense. It’s all about chemistry and we know how hard Brady works to create and maintain it. With Rob Gronkowski working his way back to playing form that should only help this team get back on track.

As for the old habits that reared their ugly heads on Sunday, let’s take a look at the Patriots secondary. Granted Kyle Arrington was considerably better than last season there were still some missed assignments that lead to Bills touchdowns. It seems to be a constant battle the Patriots face with their secondary. They can come up huge and create turnovers but they can leave guys wide open in the end zone. Some solid footage from this week will undoubtedly help the coaching staff correct these mistakes.

With the linebackers, the song about a lack of speed continues to be sung. These guys are great off the line and nobody anticipates a snap like Brandon Spikes, but catch these guys in a lateral motion and the opposition wins every time. The middle of the field is a weakness and allows opposing quarterbacks to look like Hall of Fame talents. It’s time this problem gets corrected and I see that happening with Chandler Jones in his second year, creating more pressure up front and forcing mistakes. This will open up the linebackers to get one step ahead of the opponent.

Week One was unimpressive to say the least. What Bill Belichick gathered from the game was a lot of footage and during this short week, he’s going to need it. There are some new problems and old habits to work on but facing the Jets on Thursday is in their favor. They have time to correct and reset the offense and realign the defense. While we can expect Thursday’s game to look a lot different, make sure you’re prepared for the growing pains that are going to come along with this season. It’s the start of a new era in New England with a fresh crop of offensive talent.

For the Patriots, Being the Backup is No Easy Task

He doesn’t get hit like a lineman, doesn’t rush like a running back and he’s not likely a leader on the field but he has one of the most important jobs on the team. The backup quarterback, the unsung hero, fighting for every opportunity and waiting for his moment. All it takes is one play to go wrong and he’s in. Preseason aside he doesn’t get many chances to practice what he’s learned against an opposing defense. It’s all about performing under pressure and getting the job done.

We’ve seen some great backups transition into franchise starters; Tom Brady being chief among them. Not many people gave the sixth round draft pick a chance to take over for Drew Bledsoe. But that’s where he proved his football IQ and today Patriots fans don’t want to imagine a day without him.


Ryan Mallett could one day find himself taking over for one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game. (FILE:USPresswire)

Standing in Brady’s shadow isn’t an easy place to be. Matt Cassel stepped in in 2008 to lead the team to an 11-5 record after Brady was knocked out in week one with a season ending knee injury. He went on to quarterback the Kansas City Chiefs but since leaving the Patriots his road hasn’t been easy and he’s had little success.

Brian Hoyer was the man behind Brady for three years after being signed by the Pats as an undrafted free agent in 2009. Before the start of the 2012 season Hoyer was cut by the team and bounced from the Pittsburgh Steelers to the Arizona Cardinals that year. This season he finds himself in Cleveland behind Brandon Weeden and Jason Campbell. He may never have an opportunity to start an NFL game or learn from the likes of a future hall of famer again.

As for who now stands to inherit the reigns from Brady, the backup duties lie on Ryan Mallett. Drafted in the third round of 2011 he’s spent the last two seasons with one of the best the game has ever seen. In practice their footwork is in line and it’s clear Mallett looks to get as much as he can out of Brady. He may look like he’s just “holding the clipboard” but he’s using every practice and every game as an opportunity to grow and learn the intricacies of his position.

Being the backup makes a player an easy target for critics. In his short NFL career Mallett has had his talents questioned and his name has found a familiar spot in the trade rumor mill. With the addition of Tebow, some are forgetting Mallett is actually the number two guy. They jump straight from Brady to Tebow. But Mallet isn’t the first backup to have his skills doubted and he certainly won’t be the last.

Less we forget, it’s very well documented that Brady never had anything handed to him. He had to work for everything he got at Michigan and he has fought every year with the Patriots to get better and to raise his game. He wasn’t an instant success and has taken his time to develop his game. You can bet he’s passing that attitude down to the guys behind him on the depth chart.

Every fan wants their backup quarterback to be a miracle waiting in the wings. But the reality is, it’s going to take some patience and a few bad passes before he becomes a fan favorite. It’s not the most physical job in the league but it certainly is one of the toughest. Hurry up and wait is the motto but when Belichick says, “you’re in”, it’s the opportunity of a lifetime. Mallett will continue to grow so give him some time, but luckily we’ve got Brady for a least a little while longer.