NEPD Staff Writer: Ethan Hammerman
The Patriots certainly had some weak spots in last week’s game against San Diego. However, the offense hummed nicely and helped propel New England to a 35-21 victory. Let’s take a closer look at each unit.
Passing — Brady Being Brady
Tom Brady had yet another masterful game behind center. He proved to be equally proficient when he was blitz as opposed to playing with a clean pocket, and he spread the ball all over the field. Once again, he worked the middle of the field to the tune of a 134.7 passer rating (16-22, 254 yards, 3 TDs.) Brady has yet to go right a ton this season; that bears watching. Against San Diego he only attempted four passes to that side of the field. Granted, the middle of the field was a sieve all day.
Rushing — A Little Law and Order
This was BenJarvus Green-Ellis’ day to shine. He averaged a consistent 4.1 yards a carry, secured the football at all times, and even got half of his yards after contact. However, once again, there was little extra burst, and without one long TD run late in the game his numbers look much more paltry. Stevan Ridley impressed me in limited action, and Danny Woodhead was not a huge part of the gameplan this week.
Receiving — Back to Basics
Brady worked the middle of the field for most of the game. However, there were certain parts when he would rely on Deion Branch to make some nice plays. Branch caught 8 balls for 129 yards, exploiting five different covermen in the process. He did look good against Antoine Cason, against whom he had three receptions for 29 yards. Chad Ochocinco also exploited Cason: both of his catches were against him. The tight ends were solid as ever, and Wes Welker had the team’s only drop. It was an efficient day for the Patriots’ offense.
Blocking – Light My Fire
For me, Matt Light was the best offensive lineman in the game. The team ran behind him (and Gronkowski, for that matter) 5 times for 35 yards and a TD. He also kept Brady off his back, only giving up one pressure. The entire OL, for that matter, was solid all day long. Dan Connolly was the weakest of the bunch, clocking in with one pressure and two hits given up. Danny Woodhead also had a mediocre day in pass protection.
Defensive Line – Beached Whales
After a solid day of pressure against the Miami Dolphins where even All-World tackle Jake Long gave up a sack, four hits and two pressures, the Patriots fizzled vs. the likes of Marcus McNeill. As a whole, the Patriots accrued two sacks, two hits and six pressures, relatively paltry numbers. Shaun Ellis, Vince Wilfork and Mark Anderson were the only guys to get to the QB in any capacity in terms of defensive linemen. Andre Carter and Albert Hyanesworth were basically non-factors. I think the line will come around eventually, but there needs to be a bit more consistency in terms of pressuring the quarterback. They were relatively stout against the run, though.
Linebackers – Mayo Makes Plays
For me, Jerod Mayo was the MVP of the game. He had a sensational six stops on the day (no other Patriot had more than one) and forced a fumble as well. Mayo is truly great at the OLB position in our 4-3 defense, and I hope that he continues to blossom. Ninkovich looked lively on the other side and contributed a sack plus two pressures. The rest of the linebackers were really non-descript, so I do not have much to say about them.
Secondary – Give Them Time
None of the members of the Patriots’ secondary, sans Pat Chung, looked good in this game. However, I think that a couple of ancillary factors, including some bad luck on beautifully thrown balls, a key injury to Ras-I Dowling and Sergio Brown getting used to safety contributed to this. Chung basically locked down Antonio Gates: he held him to no catches. If he stays healthy, he can stay with any player.
Devin McCourty got unlucky on some plays and victimized on others. He hasn’t looked as impressive as he did last year, but I fully expect him to improve as S. Brown gets used to his full-time starting role. Brown had a really nice pick while covering Gates and shows great athleticism: if he can become a bit more instinctive in deep coverage, he should be a great player in due time. Overall, this secondary is still young, but they were not quite as bad as the numbers indicated and I expect them to improve as the season progresses.
Special Teams – I Hope Mesko Is OK
Mesko’s injury made me sad. I was happy that Gostkowski made a couple of clutch field goals. Edelman looked decent returning kicks but I still prefer him as a PR.
Awards (For Players Not Named Brady) And Final Thoughts
Offense: It was another day at the office for the Patriots offensive corps. Light impressed me once again, as did Branch and Gronkowski, so they get the accolades. However, this team looks really good on that side of the ball.
O-Three Stars – Branch, Gronkowski, Light
Defense: Chung has gotten off to a great start, and Mayo seems to be taking nicely to his new position. However, the Patriots looked mediocre at pass rushing against the Chargers, and that is unacceptable against elite teams.
D-Three Stars: Mayo, Wilfork, Chung