Going into the Patriots' season, we knew that there were very few household names at wide out. We knew that it would probably be mid-season or week 3 at best before we saw Gronk on the field. We knew Brady is one of the best and that he has high expectations for all of the players including himself. Coach Belichick does as well. We knew the defense has been injured or under-producing in the last couple years but still makes plays when they need to. But over the course of the first two games, we've learned a lot. Some good and some bad. We've learned that the Patriots rush attack is something that teams need to look at now. Even with Shane Vereen out, there is still a plethora of solid RBs (Ridley, Bolden, Blount, Washington) that can get the job done. The backfield is set for a great rushing attack this entire season. Let us not forget, when the Patriots won all of those super bowls back in the 2000s, Brady wasn't throwing for 300 and 400 yards a game. They had a fairly balanced offense and a solid defense. That was also back when Brady was still very young in his career and still getting better as a QB. The years he peaked as one of the best players in the league (2007, 2010, 2011) they barely had a rush attack. Brady has had to pick up the slack in last 6-7 years because of the poor rush attack and porous defense. This year's Patriots team however, is kind of reminding me of those super bowl teams from 01, 03, and 04. Am I saying this team is super bowl bound?? Absolutely not. The NFL has changed quite a bit since they've won those championships and so have the Patriots. But with Brady getting up there in his old age, I think he's going to have to start relying on the defense and running game to win big games like he did early on in his career. The first two games were against divisional opponents. Those are never easy because you see them twice every year and you both know each other's game plan to an extent. But late in the season when players are getting banged up and the roster is like an airport turnstile (always rotating) there needs to be consistency from the all sides of the ball. However, last night, the defense won the game for the Patriots. Yes there were some bad throws by Geno Smith in key situations and wide open receivers on 3rd down that Smith missed, but the defense stepped up when they needed to. What we've also learned in the first two games is that in the red zone, the Patriots have struggled A LOT!! The defense has averaged 3 takeaways/game. And on multiple takeaways, they've returned the ball deep into the opponent's territory. The defense gives the offense a VERY short field to work with and the offense squanders away great opportunities. The Patriots have converted 25% of their red zone trips into TDs thus far. (And Gostkowski, who has not impressed me these last 2 years, has had to bail the offense out with FGs) Yes it's only 2 games, but it's not the percentage that people should be worried about, it's WHY the percentage is so low. The play calling and execution have been horrible. Against Buffalo, Brady fumbled a snap at the goal line and the Bills picked it up and ran for some yardage; a very bad missed opportunity. Last night, the Patriots had a 3rd and 4 and a 3rd and 1. If they weren't in the red zone they were at least inside the 30 yard line. Both times they threw the ball into the end zone or well down field on a low percentage pass. These are things that the Patriots can control and need to be addressed. If it were the defense making great plays in the red zone, then it's something the Patriots have to live with. But they have blown great opportunities and it's because they haven't been able to execute plays that really shouldn't be called in the first place. Plain and simple the play-calling on those crucial plays has been horrible. Maybe they were trying to catch the defense sleeping or they saw something I didn't. (I am on the couch and not on the sideline) But when your receivers aren't catching passes or they're still learning the playbook, you need to make high percentage passes that the QB can make and the receiver has a good chance at catching. There have been multiple times this year where the offense has stalled and I blame it on the play calling. We can sit here all day and blame it on the rookie WRs, but that wouldn't do anything. The coaches know that these players are inexperienced, so why not call something that is almost guaranteed. In my mind, 3rd and 1 is a running play. If you can't get a yard, you don't deserve to win. The Patriots are known for doing the unexpected (i.e going for it on 4th and 2 deep in their own territory at Indy in 2009). But when you have a solid backfield that can punch out a yard at almost any given time, that's something to rely on in big situations. The Patriots have thrived in the red zone, and when they would get down there you could all but guarantee a touchdown was coming. Now, it seems like the Patriots need a long TD pass or run to get the job done. Some people might think, "well it doesn't matter how the Patriots score a TD, as long as they get it done." While that might be true, you also have to think about the clock and you have to think about the defense. If it is late in the ball game and there's a small differential in the score, you want to be able drain the clock and end the drive with at least 3 points. This Patriots team has the ability to do that, (i.e. week 1). But why put yourself in that situation when you should be able to score almost at will by using all parts of your offense and not squandering away what your defense gives you? The Patriots have become accustomed to what they've done in the past and I believe they are still trying to ride that train. But they are a totally different team than what we've seen in the last few years. And until they realize what kind of team they have, it will be a long season. The Patriots have a lot of potential on both sides of the ball, they just need to figure out how to use it and execute.
March 24, 2014  05:34 PM ET

The Patriots are solid playoff spot holders and are title contenders for years to come, as long as Brady and Belicheck are in New England. I would say that their division is very soft and those things don't often work themselves through in just a season or two. I hope the Pats get another crack at the Superbowl at least one more time in Brady's career.

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