Wednesday, October 5, 2011

THREE AND OUT: What We've Learned

Four weeks into the 2011 season, and the Patriots stand at three-and-one. What have we learned about this year's edition?


Brady's Back
Coming off an MVP-winning season, Brady has been as sharp as ever, smashing passing records along the way. Through the first four games, he broke the NFL record for yardage in a three-game stretch, passed Joe Montana in career touchdowns, and is on pace to through for 7,000 yards and nearly 60 touchdowns. Yeah, we'll forget about the flukey game in Buffalo.

Might at Tight End
After Aaron Hernandez went down with an MCL sprain in week two, Rob Gronkowski has had to carry even more of the offensive burden. He's done so beautifully, putting up remarkable receiving numbers when called up, while also blocking well when the run game is used.

Balance an Option
After Brady's four interception debacle against the Bills, Coach Belichick shifted some of the onus to the run game in Oakland. The Patriots hadn't looked for this type of balance in the previous games, but their offense benefitted, running the ball 30 times and throwing it the same number.


Shoddy Defense
Entering week four, the Patriots held the unenviable distinction of the league's worst defense. They looked better in Oakland, largely shutting down a dangerous run game, but it was the first time the Pats had held an opposing team to less than 20 points.

Questionable Acquisitions
The big name off-season pickups of Albert Haynesworth and Chad Ochocinco haven't taken off. In fact, they've barely left the ground. Haynesworth has missed the past two games after playing only a few snaps in the first two, and Ochocinco has been noticeably quiet on offense. His biggest moment was when he dropped a sure touchdown pass against the Bills.

No Deep Threat
It's hard to pick on an offense that's breaking records, but the Patriots could certainly benefit from a classic deep threat. Matthew Slater hasn't panned out, nor Ochocinco, and as a result, Wes Welker has been forced to run some seam routes. To his credit, he has excelled, but a more naturally vertical receiver would certainly help.

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