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The Patriots’ performance during Sunday’s frustrating 16-9 loss to the Jets makes this positive-outlook article all the more tougher to write. We are now through two weeks of the NFL’s regular season, and one could argue that New England is lucky just to be at 1-1. LUCKY, to be at 1-1. Can you imagine that? Now, look at the upcoming schedule: Week 3 against the 2-0 Falcons, Week 4 against the 2-0 Ravens, and Week 5 against the 2-0 Broncos. Could the Pats be staring at a 1-4 start? Judging by yesterday’s outing, it’s not out of the realm of possibility.
The problem isn’t a familiar one to the Pats. Coming into the year, the common opinion was that the team’s defense would be the major issue that would hold this team back. Losing guys like Tedy Bruschi, Rodney Harrison, Richard Seymour, and Mike Vrabel, all in one offseason caused questions to be raised about the team’s defensive corps. But, the problem isn’t on that side of the ball. Through two games, the Pats’ D has given up just 17 and 16 offensive points, respectively. Most weeks, with the potential that this team’s high-powered offense has, that should be good enough to win.
The struggles that the Patriots offense has experienced thus far has been nothing short of puzzling. Is Brady’s injury lingering? Is the absence of Wes Welker the reason? Is “running back by committee” the way to go? The Pats don’t have much time to figure it out and get this right, as Atlanta and Baltimore, the next two visitors to New England, have and will put points on the board. It’s up to Brady and the Pats to do the same.
But, yesterday’s game didn’t go without some positives to take from it. Yes, I did have to look a little harder than I had hoped, but here now is what I found, and who I found, to give out this week’s “PATS on the Back.”
With the opening week loss of Jerod Mayo to injury, “the dot” fell to second-year linebacker Gary Guyton yesterday. “The dot” indicates which defensive player is wearing the helmet that is designed to communicate with the coaches on the sidelines. Mayo had worn it in Week 1, but without their new defensive captain on the field, Guyton stepped up and played well.
Leading the team with 10 tackles, Guyton’s defense looked strong, especially early, holding the Jets’ offense to just three first half points, while bottling up QB Mark Sanchez’s air attack, limiting him to just 3 of 5 passing by halftime. The New England defense has outperformed the highly touted offense through the team’s first two games, and Guyton will be a key factor as to whether that trend can continue for the D.
Like Guyton, who was forced into a starting role to fill an injury hole, rookie Julian Edelman saw a heavy workload in Sunday’s matchup, as Brady’s favorite target Wes Welker was sidelined with a sore knee. With New York focused on taking Randy Moss out of the game (he was limited to just 4 grabs for 24 yards), Edelman led the team in the passing game with 8 catches for 98 yards, and looked very comfortable in what can be a complicated Pats’ offense. With Welker’s return in question for Week 3, look for Edelman to continue to contribute to the offense until Welker is 100% healthy.
Sad, but Gostkowski was the lone point scorer for the Pats yesterday, as his three first half field goals were all that New England could muster. After a shaky start last week, when he missed an early field goal that could have proved costly if it weren’t for New England’s late charge to victory, Gostkowski split the uprights on field goals of 25, 29, and 45 yards, giving the Pats their only nine points on the day. Turning those scoring drives from field goals to touchdowns of course would have made a world of difference, as I’m sure Gostkowski would rather be kicking extra points than field goals, but in a week where “PATS on the Back” are thin, it seems to be the right time to recognize the team’s kicker…and that’s not a good sign.