Watching the Patriots game on Sunday from the lower level was a real treat, but besides the enjoyment of watching the Pats in person, I noticed some glaring holes that were made even more noticeable by seeing them with my own eyes.
1) New England will live and die by Brady’s play: If there were ever a more important conductor to a NFL train, its Tom Brady. The Patriots go, when Brady goes. The Patriots fail, when Brady fails (as was the case with the Jets). The 2010 season will mark the first season in which New England relies almost entirely on their franchise quarterback. The play of No. 12 will have to be consistently good if the Patriots want to make it to the playoffs as Brady will have to atone for the glaring holes on defense with his play.
2) The secondary is a major question mark: Going into the season, the New England secondary looked like a real strength on paper. But with Leigh Bodden going down for the year and inconsistent play from Brandon Merriweather and the rest of the free safety spot, the secondary has become a real black eye. Darius Butler has been overmatched each time he’s gone out onto the field, whether it be Chad Ochocinco, Braylon Edwards, or Lee Evans. Devin McCourty has been a bright spot for the inconsistent secondary but, as a rookie, he will go through some bumps in the road. Those times will really test the grit of the defensive backfield.
3) Still no pass rush: We knew the pass rush would be a serious area of concern long before the beginning of the season. With Ty Warren out for the year and journeymen Gerard Warren and Mike Wright occupy the spots next to Vince Wilfork, we knew the line wouldn’t generate much of a push. So the likes of Tully Banta-Cain and Rob Ninkovich needed to step up. Well, Banta-Cain was benched for Jermaine Cunningham and Gary Guyton and the defensive line has been a steady stream of substitution with Ron Brace and Myron Pryor spending lots of time on the field. Even with all these ‘options’, the Patriots felt the need to active Shawn Crable, who has been a real disappointment in his time for New England, so the Pats are relying on him for a spark. Wouldn’t hold my breath.
4) Coaches finally learning that half-time adjustments are vital: Bill Belichick and Co. finally learned this past Sunday that making serious half-time adjustments are an important key to second half success. New England went to a hurry-up offense to open up the third quarter and it worked to perfection, keeping the Bills defense off balanced and second-guessing. Also, using the likes of James Sanders and Jarrad Page in passing situations helped spell some of the defensive backs in hopes of keeping fresh legs on the field. This worked pretty well.
5) Running back situation hard to understand: Unfortunately for New England, hindsight is 20/20. With Kevin Faulk going down with an ACL injury, which will keep him out for the remainder of the season, the Patriots would have been wise to hold onto Laurence Maroney. But, without Maroney, the Patriots still have Fred Taylor, Sammy Morris, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, and newcomer Danny Woodhead. The only confusing thing is: Where did Morris’ reps go and is Taylor always injured? Or is Green-Ellis just that good? It looks as if New England is going to ride both Taylor and Green-Ellis whenever either one is healthy and use Morris solely as a full-back or extra blocker. Woodhead was a nice surprise on Sunday but his contribution will most likely come on the special teams.