Just imagine, if you will, a Patriots team that carries forward, throughout the season, these things: good ground game, solid offensive line play (ie: keeping Tom Brady from eating fertilizer), a defense that can take away what an opposing offense is good at, and a special teams unit that pins rivals will into their territory. Imagine all of that and then contemplate a passing attack back to where it should be, a Tom Brady in sync with his receivers. Scary, isn't it? Well, it's not as far from reality as one might think.
When you take the best quarterback playing the game today and put him in charge of a team with this much potential, he WILL fix the things that trouble not only him but those around him. He won't rest until he's taken care of business. 2007 was a silly, silly season for the New England Patriots. It is inevitable that comparison will be made as that is the most recent success story. But, might it be better to compare this team to Super Bowl champion Patriots of past years? Does this year "feel" more like 2001, 2003, or 2004?
We're 2-1. We just beat the Falcons so I may be a bit high off of the win, but this team looked downright good, like the old days. Other than Tom and his receivers, things were clicking well. So let's dive into it. I'm experimenting with a new format for recaps, so let me know what you think.
- Ground Game - Fred Taylor is an absolute, certifiable, friggin' stud. He knows where to go, how to follow his blockers, and put his shoulder down. When he joined the team, I watched a lot of highlights to get a sense of who he was. He will make sure tacklers know they got in his way because he will blow...you...up. 21 carries for 105 yards and a TD. That's a 5 yard average per carry, my friends.
- Offensive Line - The 300 pounders were opening holes all day for Freddy to blast through. Atlanta seemed powerless to stop the running game with our OL playing like they did. It's also nice to know they kept Tom Brady on his feet for the whole game. Atlanta's pass rushing DE John Abraham wasn't even heard from.
- Brandon McGowan - Tony Gonzalez, 1 catch for 16 yards. 'Nuff said. McGowan took away Falcons QB Matt Ryan's go to guy and, in the process, practically neutered their offense. Sure, he had help, but McGowan was a huge part of keeping Ryan's favorite weapon in check.
- Randy Moss - For whatever reason, it seemed like Randy was the only guy Brady could trust. 10 receptions for 116 yards, 2 of which were for 4th down conversions. Clutch. And he did it with a bad back. Thank you, Randy!
- Down Conversions - Third down was 8/18 or 44% but the most interesting one was fourth down at 3/3. The former was decent, but the latter shows Belichick has big ones, he has confidence in his guys to make the big plays.
- Brady and Receivers - They were not in sync. Missed routes, overthrown balls, too much zing. Whatever the problem was, they just don't appear to be connected. Tom would put the ball where he thought the receiver would be and they would be running the route the way they thought Tom would want it run. The good news is this is fixable. More work and more practice will iron out these issues.
- Laurence Maroney - Primary back is his job to lose and he's losing it. Fred Taylor schooled the younger back on how to do it. El Mo had 4 touches for 17 yards. That shows a lack of confidence in his abilities.
- Joey Galloway - If Galloway still has a job by the end of the week, I'll be shocked. How is it that a guy with his experience doesn't know where his feet are in the end zone? Or, how does he drop a very catchable ball that was an automatic TD? This is even uglier considering the guy he beat out for a roster spot, Greg Lewis, caught a toenail scraper from Minnesota's Brett Favre to win the game.
- Red Zone Offense - Or, better yet, lack thereof. 1 for 5, my friends, 1 for 5. That means 4 field goals, boys and girls. Or, 12 points instead of 28. Pull that crap against a better team and you'll get smoked.
- Pass Rush - I have complained for a long time that we don't have a pass rush worth shaking a stick at. If you rush quarterbacks, they have less time to make their reads and get the ball off. That usually means some bad throws and decisions. Where is our rush? Where is Derrick Burgess?
There are many things here that are fixable. Brady will get in sync with his receivers. The red zone offense will get better. And if Galloway doesn't cut the mustard, Belichick will find someone who will.