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With head coach Bill Belichick confirming that Tom Brady will need surgery, be placed on injured reserve and will miss the entire season, as hard as it is it’s time to move on and figure out how the Patriots plan on winning games.
As of now, Matt Cassel is the quarterback of the New England Patriots. He came in and controlled the game on Sunday and led the team to a victory. With Brady out, Cassel is line for his first real start at quarterback since high school. Cassel is in his fourth year and thus knows the system inside and out. He showed Sunday that he can make some good throws, but his decision making has come into question. Rumors are that Chris Simms and Tim Rattay are coming to New England for workouts, but even if one of them sign it will take a couple weeks to learn the system, something the aforementioned Cassel has been learning for nearly half a decade.
Brady’s injury no doubt stings every fiber of Patriots fans around New England and probably takes the Pats out of the running for a fourth Super Bowl victory this decade. However, the Patriots still have a bunch of playmakers on both sides of the ball and could still win the weak AFC East. The pressure is of course on Cassel to perform but also puts into light the play of guys like Laurence Maroney and Randy Moss. Moss and Wes Welker are still incredible talents who can wreak havoc if given the ball in the right situations. Maroney ran for more than five yards a carry in week one despite only getting the ball 10 times. I would expect his carries to jump as well as the other running backs.
Above all, the defense is going to have to step up and win some games for the Pats. During the early Super Bowl years the defense was what kept New England in games and even slowed down The Greatest Show on Turf. With a mixture of young and old, the ’08 defense needs to show passion and desire. Instead of protecting a 30 point lead as in ’07, the defense is going to have to do two things very well: get off the field in third down situations and produce takeaways. Far too many times in recent years the Patriots have failed to kill off games through takeaways and allow too many third down conversions. On Sunday the Chiefs converted 8 of 16 third downs and won the time of possession. This is something that just won’t fly against the powers that be in the AFC. The defense is highly touted and highly paid, now it’s time for them to regain the swagger that led the Pats to three Super Bowl titles since 2001.
Defense, conservative passing game, finding a way to win close games. Sure sounds a heck of a lot like Patriots football.