1. Running Game - A tale of two teams. The Patriots, with BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead, could not generate any consistent running game. The Redskins stonewalled all attempts up the gut and the Patriots were unable to counter with any consistency to the outside. Brady threw the ball for the majority of the day and it's because the running game could only be trusted as a complementary piece of the offense. The Redskins, on the other hand, dominated the field with Roy Helu Jr (and Evan Royster, for that matter). The Patriots struggled to stop the run and the Redskins were able to run up and down the field. Major loss for the Patriots.
2. Tight Ends - Hah. Another tale of two teams. For as disappointing the Patriots run game was, the Patriots tight ends were beyond exceptional. Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez racked up major yardage and were huge contributors and reasons for the Patriots success. The Redskins? Yeah, no tight end really showed up. Easy win for the Patriots.
3. Rush the Passer - Would it be fair to say that neither team had a real impact? Beyond Andre Carter's strip sack in the end zone and Andre Carter is general, it seemed as if the Patriots struggled to generate much pressure. The Redskins were no better. While more Redskins were able to generate individual pressures, it seemed as if no one was on the same page. So while the Patriots offensive line did a solid enough time to give Tom Brady an open pocket, so did the Redskins for Rex Grossman. A draw for this point.
4. Secondary - Well, safety Matthew Slater was benched for cornerback Nate Jones. Safety James Ihedigbo was a sieve. Cornerbacks Kyle Arrington, Devin McCourty, and Julian Edelman? Fantastically average. That's an improvement. 60% of Rex Grossman's yards came in the middle of the field (against safeties and linebackers), and Brandon Banks' absurd trick play was against two safeties. Apart from the bomb against McCourty (which was the same route that the Eagles and Riley Cooper pulled on Kyle Arrington, and also 20% of Grossman's yards), the cornerbacks played very, very well.
Here's the breakdown:
vs LBs - 9/12, 92 yards
vs CBs - 8/15, 140 yards, 1 TD
vs Ss - 3/3, 69 yards, 2 TDs
vs LBs/Ss - 12/15, 161 yards, 2 TDs
So it's easy to point at the cornerbacks and say that they need improvement, but I think it makes more sense to point at the safeties and say that they're one of the main issues with the defense. So while it's a win for the cornerbacks, it's a loss for the safeties and, as a whole, a tie for the Patriots.
5. 60 Minutes - Well, the Patriots played until the final whistle. They didn't play well, but they didn't stop trying. However, it's hard to overlook how many little mistakes the team made throughout the day. Poor passes by Brady. Sloppy routes by receivers. Questionable execution in run defense. Startling play in the secondary. That's a draw for the Patriots.
The Patriots squeak out with a victory after posting 2.5/5. The team has to improve at all facets of the game, but most importantly in the run game and with safety performance. Expect those positions to receive the most work this week.