Tom Brady struggled throwing the football in 2013 down near the goal line. (USA TODAY Images)

One area that will likely see a lot of work heading into this season is the Patriots putting a major focus on their passing game down in the red area, especially as they get closer to the goal line.

That was an area of weakness last season, largely in part thanks to the fact that there was a lack of cohesion among new pieces of the Patriots passing game, as well as with the absence of Rob Gronkowski, which was discussed in yesterday’s edition.

Overall down in the red zone during the regular season in 2013 Brady finished 42-of-83 (51%) with 20 touchdowns and 3 interceptions.  In the postseason in their two games he was just 4-of-9 (44%) with only one touchdown.

Taking a closer look, when it came to throwing the football, as the team begins creeping closer to the goal line the percentages dropped quite a bit.

Here’s a breakdown:

Inside the 20yd line down to the 16:
14-of-22 (64%) 5 TDs, 1 INT

From the 15yd line down to the 11:
10-of-21 (48%) 3 TDs, 1 INT

From the 10yd line down to the 6:
9-of-18 (50%) 5 TD, 1 INT

From the 5yd line down to the 2:
6-of-15 (40%) 5 TD

At the 1yd line:
3-of-7 (43%) 2 TD

Obviously the  biggest number that stands out is how bad they were from the 5-yard line down to the 2, where Brady was just 6-of-15.  That’s certainly a glaring stat, and while trying to create some context around that, we come back to trying to figure out where Gronkowski fit into that equation.

Looking at the games that Gronkowski didn’t participate in, Brady was 4-of-12 (33%) with three touchdowns from that distance.  In the seven games Gronk was in the line-up, Brady was 2-of-3 (67%) with two touchdowns.

Oddly enough, Gronkowski didn’t catch either of them.  It was Julian Edelman who caught them both, and it shows you how the tight end’s presence likely made things easier on Edelman in those situations.

With Gronk out of the line-up Edelman wasn’t even targeted at that distance, which tells you that he was the one drawing the attention, with Thompkins (1 TD) and Vereen (2 TD’s) as the two players who Brady was able to find instead.

Moving down to the goal line, Brady overall was 3-of-7 with two touchdowns.  Without Gronkowski, he was 2-of-5 (40%) with one TD.  With Gronkowski on the field he was 1-of-2, misfiring on one pass to the tight end, while connecting for a touchdown to Danny Amendola on his other attempt.

Fortunately down that close the Patriots did have a fair amount of success running the ball.  From the 5-yard line down to the 2, the running backs combined for 8 carries and 5 touchdowns, three of which were by Stevan Ridley, while LeGarrette Blount and Brandon Bolden each chipped in with one each.

From the goal line, they carried 15 times with 7 touchdowns, with Ridley (3 TD’s), Bolden (2 TD’s), James Develin (1 TD), and LeGarrette Blount (1 TD) each punching it in.  Oddly enough the odd man out was Shane Vereen, who carried twice for 0-yards, while Brady had one attempt in the season opener and fumbled the football away on a 4th down play.

We’ll see if having a full year in the system helps some of the newer guys fix this problem.  But it shows you that they’ve got some work to do, and hopefully 2014 will see some improvement in that area.

UNDERRATED SUPER BOWL PLAY: J.R.REDMOND MAKES THE LIST:

Frank Schwab of Yahoo! Sports Shutdown corner published a list of “Overrated and Underrated Super Bowl plays, and one name that made the cut was  former Patriots running back J.R. Redmond, who helped Tom Brad quite a bit on the fateful drive that set-up the winning field goal in Super Bowl XXXVI.

Writes Schwab:

Brady hit Redmond, a little-used running back, for five yards on first down, narrowly escaping a sack to do so, and then went back to Redmond for eight more yards on second for a first down. Brady then clocked the ball with 41 seconds left. Bill Belichick had used the Patriots’ final timeout two possessions earlier when it was clear his defense was absolutely gassed.

The Patriots faced a 2nd and 10 from their own 30. They still had 35-40 yards to go to get into field goal range. Their offense had been pretty stale, gaining 27 yards on the previous three possessions.

Brady dropped back to pass and looked in the middle of the field. He wanted either Troy Brown or Jermaine Wiggins, it appeared. But Brady instead swung a pass to Redmond in the flat, and he made a very gutsy move, going inside of Rams corner Dre Bly, who was protecting against Redmond going out of bounds. Instead, Redmond had enough juice to break Bly’s tackle to the inside, drag Tommy Polley four yards, beat Kim Herring to the sticks and get out of bounds to stop the clock.

Schwab points out that it wasn’t a bad game for a player that had one touch in the game prior to that drive and didn’t surpass 1,200 yards from scrimmage in what he felt was a “nondescript career”.

LIGHT FOUNDATION WINS $100,000 PRIZE:

Matt Light’s foundation received some nice recognition recently, winning the 2014 Humanitarian Award and its $100,000 prize from All Sports United.  It’s a  prize given annually to a professional athlete for excellence in philanthropy.

According to the Daily Advocate, The Light Foundation was selected from a group of 40 nominations for the award. Light was one of 12 finalists along with Marshawn Lynch (Seattle Seahawks), Bill Belichick, Allison Baver (Olympic speed skater), Isiah Thomas (National Basketball Association) and others.

“We’re very proud of all of our finalists, “All Sports United Co-Founder Alan Pavlovsky said, according to the organization. “They’ve all presented themselves extremely well and have put in hard work. Matt Light couldn’t make us more proud as our winner. He’s very humble, shies away from self-promotion and works very hard to help people. It’s his calling and our calling to recognize him.”

UMASS AND UCONN WILL BATTLE AT GILLETTE STADIUM IN 2016

For those fans out there who love college football, there will be a pretty good game coming up at Gillette Stadium between a pair of local college teams in a couple of seasons.

According to the Daily Hampshire Gazette UCONN and UMASS will face off at Gillette Stadium in 2016 on September 10th.

A UMass source told the newspaper that the UConn game is part of a larger series that includes at least one game at Rentschler Field in East Hartford, Connecticut. 

The Huskies and Minuteman used to regularly face each other when both teams were in the Yankee Conference. UMass leads the all-time series 36-24-2 but UConn won the last meeting, 37-0, back in 2012, the Minutemen’s first game in the FBS.

RIDLEY WORKS WITH LOCAL ATHLETES:

According to the Natchez Democrat, Patriots running back Stevan Ridley spent Wednesday working with local kids as part of a local football camp at Adams County Christian School in Louisiana.

After working out at Louisiana State University, Ridley reportedly arrived at ACCS, preached grades first, shared secrets of his success and stressed good attitudes before fielding questions from the participants.

“You’re the only person that can stop you,” Ridley said to nearly 35 participants. “You have to marry your sport or whatever you do. You have to have focus and the right mindset.”

Ridley once took part in this camp, and told the newspaper that it was great to have a chance to see these kids and be a part of it.

It wasn’t too long ago that I was here running track meets at AC,” Ridley said. “Now, I’m talking to kids who I’m a decade older than. It’s always great to see these young kids from my hometown.”