REPORT CARD: Patriots Escape Redskins Comeback Attempt

Derek Havens
December 13, 2011 at 09:30am ET

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Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski not at the start of the team's OTA's today
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New Patriots DL Danny Shelton preps to hit the hill
Patriots center David Andrews excited with his new Georgia Bulldog teammates

The New England Patriots defeated the Washington Redskins on Sunday afternoon 34 – 27. While the team did get the victory, this team still has work to do in the last month of the regular season. Here is my report card for week 14. -

Offense Grade: B -

For starters, New England’s running game needs to produce more. I do not expect the team to put up big numbers on a weekly basis, they are a passing team after all, but they need to have more of an impact in the playoffs. For the second straight week the team struggled to run the ball, totaling only 79 rush yards on the day. Danny Woodhead had one of his better games on the year, but no one seemed to get into a rhythm.

Devin McCourty's second half performance may be something to build off moving forward. (FILE:Icon/SMI)

Second-year tight end Rob Gronkowski is an absolute monster and he had another great game on Sunday afternoon. He finished the night with six receptions, 160 yards and two touchdowns. His first touchdown reception breaks the NFL record for TD catches by a tight end in a season and he would add another one later; giving the potential All-Pro player 15 on the season.

Not only was I unhappy with the play calling yesterday, I thought the execution was poor too. A lot of the plays were made by players after the fact and the unit continues to look for a viable third receiver option. One positive for the game, however, was the offense started faster than previous weeks.

Defense Grade: C -

Thanks to Jerod Mayo and his recent play making ability, the Patriots escaped FedEx Field with another win on Sunday. After four years with no interceptions, the defensive captain now has two in as many weeks. The game as a whole was not pretty by any means, but the team made plays when it absolutely needed too, which is obviously great to see.

I was shocked to see Roy Helu have the type of success he did against a solid Patriots run defense. The unit had been solid against opposing rushers all season, but the rookie from Nebraska torched New England for 126 yards. Hopefully this was a fluke than something that will continue as the weather gets colder and teams turn more to the running game heading into January.

I thought Dane Fletcher made a great debut after being out for several weeks with a thumb injury. The injury reportedly took multiple surgeries to correct and the second-year linebacker wore a hard plastic brace over his glove during the game. He finished with eight total tackles and a quarterback hit.

The secondary put on one of their worst performances of the season Sunday. Devin McCourty had a terrible first half, but played better in the second portion of the game. His performance could have a big impact on the unit as a whole in the playoffs, so hopefully the pro bowl corner can bounce back as the team makes a title run.

One thing I picked up from the game though, Bill Belichick does not seem to know his exact personnel grouping that will start in the secondary come playoff time. He continues to experiment on the defensive end and it will be interesting to see how the defense looks next month.

Special Teams Grade: A-

Pats kicker Stephen Gostkowski hits two field goals, and Zoltan Mesko had three solid punts, averaging 45 yards per attempt. I would love to see more from Patriots returners moving forward, but that might be an area to be addressed in the off-season.

Overall Game Grade: C

Overall, I thought the Patriots played mediocre for the majority of the game, but like I previously mentioned, this team still has work to do moving forward. Never the less, a win is always great to have as the team is vying for the top overall seed in the AFC.

The offense continues to put up solid numbers, but there are concerns. The defense is what it is at this point, but the unit is still banged up and made a play when they needed too. Next week is another tough road match up in Denver as the Pats go up against Tim Tebow and the Broncos. I will have more on both games later in the week.

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