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The New England Patriots improved to 6-0 with a 30-23 victory over their bitter rival the New York Jets. The Patriots won and as they say a win is a win is a win, but this was far from a perfect game. The Pats put this game squarely on Tom Brady’s 38 year old shoulders and the greatest quarterback of all time delivered. Completing 34 of 54 passes for 355 yards and two scores, along with running one in himself. In fact Brady was the team leading rusher with four carries for 15 yards, as the Patriots didn’t even attempt to run the ball, five carries by running backs.
While Brady was great, some of his receivers were not, to steal a line from Gisele Bündchen, “my husband can’t throw and catch the ball”, and she is completely right. Brady’s receivers let him down at times during the game. Brandon LaFell returning for his first game of the season, dropped four balls. Usually reliable Julian Edelman dropped a sure touchdown pass that would have given the Patriots a 10 point lead. Luckily for the Patriots, Brandon Marshall of the Jets returned the favor early in the fourth quarter dropping a pass that would have given the Jets an eight point lead. While LaFell had his rough patch, Danny Amedola continued his hot play as of late. In the last two games the receiver has 15 receptions for 191 yards and a touchdown. His touchdown catch was amazing, but his best catch of the day came on a high pass by Brady which he caught after leaping in the air and taking another hard hit. Rob Gronkowski was awesome once again, catching 11 passes for 108 yards and the TD that ended up being the winning margin.
The victory is another step in a positive direction. There were big questions that were raised in this game. The biggest is the secondary. The Patriots might be undefeated but the issue of the secondary still remains. Malcolm Butler was victimized by Eric Decker all day. Butler is far from a finished product, however he was a step or two slow all game. He had his hands on a sure interception but could not corral the ball. While some might think it’s ok to not run the ball, and the Patriots still have won games against the Jets and Bills by not even attempting to run, come playoff time the Patriots can’t rely strictly on the pass. Take a look at the Patriots 2007 season. In the Super Bowl, they completely got away from the run and Brady took a pounding. The Patriots and Tom Brady want to put up points, and that’s understandable. However concerns can be had that this team doesn’t have the toughness to run it down someone’s throat to finish off a game. This writer is concerned that Josh McDaniels lacks the confidence to convert on third or fourth and short with his running backs. The Patriots missed another third and short, yesterday when they passed instead of running the ball up the gut. The Patriots had first and goal at the three, and on second and goal from the one they tried two passes to Gronkowski that did not make it to the endzone. Brady ultimately scored on fourth down. The Patriots need to get tough in order to win the tougher games down the road.
It is a quick turnaround this week, as the Patriots play the Dolphins on Thursday night football. The suddenly hot Dolphins come to town. The fins will be ready to play, but you can bet Brady will again be at his best when the game is on the line.