Agree or disagree? While I'm sure some are lining up on the Tobin as we speak, I can say I felt pretty devastated last Monday morning after seeing the Patriots defense get completely dismantled by Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers offense. However - yesterday's game was not nearly the same feeling, and while the practical repercussions of the loss might have been quite negative, there were many positives to take away from the game - and realizing this will help your sanity this week. Some thoughts on the patterns that are forming: THE OFFENSE: - Of late, Brady is not nearly as sharp as last season; or as the first several weeks of the year - Outside of Brian Waters, the offensive line has struggled in both phases and it was being covered up by Brady early on, but won't hold against better DLs. - We lack a commitment to the running game in the face of any adversity. The good news: Any of these are fixable The better news: The offense has showed great resolve all season. This is not like the 2009 Patriots. Their fourth quarter play has been nothing short of stellar: They came back from 31-24 to tie up the Bills. They were able to kill the clock & control the ball against the NYJ. They were uber-clutch against Dallas and against the Giants. And they had a great 4th quarter drive in Pittsburgh, which may have spurred a comeback if not derailed only by a blown call by the ref and some ensuing poor coaching/clock management. The offense may or may not return to its elite form this season. It remains to be seen. There is some hope for it. But if they are elite in the fourth quarter - that is of great value, and was the hallmark of our championship teams early in the decade. THE DEFENSE: The source of much of my angst last Monday was the thought that this defense was utterly hopeless. Yesterday proved that isn't the case. Before you point to the meltdown in the 4th quarter, consider: - Sergio Brown was only on the field b/c Chung was out - Tracy White was on the field b/c of injuries to Spikes/Guyton. Look, if Chung, Guyton & Spikes are hurt - we're screwed. But any team that loses 3 starters is screwed. So why lose sleep over it. We're either going to be healthy or we're not, and there's no point in wringing one's hands over how yesterday's loss occurred, given it was largely at the hands of players who really shouldn't even be on the field. Outside of that disaster, the defense played well and showed that its performances in the Jets & Cowboys games were not aberrations. Maybe these guys only can play at home - but the fact that they can play to that level is the source of some real hope. The absolute bottom line for me continues to be that the AFC is tremendously weak this year. And while the Packers are likely to destroy whatever team they face come February in the Super Bowl, I would welcome the opportunity, and I really don't see how this team is any less suited to be that hapless victim than the equally flawed Steelers, Ravens or Jets PROVIDED our defense continues build upon its 3 successful games of late. That might be a huge if, but it's a glimmer of hope that did not exist in some eyes a week ago.