Brady, Patriots offense search for consistency in Atlanta

BY foxsports • September 25, 2013

After
years of throwing to the likes of Randy Moss, Wes Welker and Rob
Gronkowski, how nameless and faceless is Tom Brady’s current crop
of New England Patriots receivers? Well,
consider that rookie Aaron Dobson, whose 10 receptions tie him for
second on the team, doesn’t even have a photograph to go with
his player profile
on NFL.com.
 


The
Patriots might be 3-0 entering Sunday night’s matchup in Atlanta but
Brady and their trademark high-scoring offense have mostly sputtered — visibly
upsetting the quarterback at times. Last week, the Patriots started to
get back on track with a 23-3 win over Tampa Bay. (The aforementioned
Dobson led New England with seven catches for 52 yards in that effort —
hardly the stuff that fans have grown accustomed
to seeing from New England.)

“I
don’t think we’ve really played to our level of expectation yet,” Brady
said in a conference call with Atlanta media on Wednesday.
“We’re trying to get there. Hopefully, this is a week we can be at our
best because we’re going to need it.”
 


The Patriots rank 17th
in total offense and 22nd
in points per game at 19.7 — their record-setting 2007 season when they
averaged
36.8 points per game now reduced to the haze of memory — and,
impossibly, Brady’s quarterback rating stands at a paltry 79.4, 27th in
the league behind the likes of Terrelle Pryor and rookie E.J. Manuel.

In
Week 1, during a 13-10 win over the New York Jets, cameras caught Brady
yelling after a third-down attempt in the red zone fell incomplete.
After that game, he said he needed to improve on his body language.

With
the Patriots’ inability in the offseason to retain Welker, Brady’s
favorite target, along with the move to cut tight end Aaron Hernandez,
who awaits trial on murder charges, and Gronkowski missing the first
three games with back and forearm injuries, Brady’s leading target has
been Julian Edelman, formerly the offense’s fourth or fifth option.
 


Asked about the Patriots’ offensive struggles, head coach Bill Belichick sounded mostly unconcerned.
 


“The
biggest thing is doing what we need to do to win games,” Belichick
said. “That’s all we’re trying to do. We’re more concerned about
our record than any individual statistics so we need to continue to make
plays — the plays we need to make in all three phases of the game that
will help us win. That’s really what we’re about.”

Nonetheless,
it would behoove the Patriots to improve offensively in an AFC East
that suddenly appears more competitive than expected,
with the Miami Dolphins also off to a 3-0 start and the Jets, at 2-1, owning one of
the league’s top defenses. It also might not hurt to improve for
Sunday’s matchup: In their only home game this season, the Falcons put
up 31 points on St. Louis.

If
Gronkowski can return this week — he was limited in practice on
Wednesday and seemingly is getting closer to returning, although
Belichick
did not provide an update to Atlanta media other than to say, “we’ll
see” — then it’s possible that New England could get closer to its
“level of expectation,” as Brady put it.

“I
mean, he’s been a great player for us since he got here,” Brady said,
“but we’ll see. Whenever he’s ready — I don’t know when that’s
going to be, it’s not up to me. Whenever he ends up being out there,
it will be a help for our offense. We’re just planning like we’ve been
planning for a few weeks. We’re gonna go out there and try to win a game
with what we’re doing.

“We
just need to execute. That’s what we’ve talked about is our level of
execution hasn’t been very high. It can be a lot better and it
needs to be better, especially this week.”
 


Last
season the Falcons’ defense was able to confuse some of the league’s
top quarterbacks in victories. It forced Peyton Manning into
three interceptions in his first eight attempts and enticed Drew Brees
into five interceptions — both Atlanta victories.
 


It has yet to function at that level this season.

 
“Yeah,
we did some good things against some really great quarterbacks last
year and we need to replicate those kinds of things, get him
off the spot if they’re a pocket guy, get him off the spot, make sure
they’re uncomfortable back there,” said Falcons safety Thomas DeCoud, a
Pro-Bowler last season who has struggled early. “Make sure we don’t tip
our hat to him before the snap. I think that
one of the things we were really good at last year, disguising our
coverages and what we were really doing out there, we have to get back
to that.”
 


Brady
said that he thinks the Patriots showed more consistency and progress
last week. However, asked where the offense is right now in
terms of its transition, with so many key players removed from last
season, he at first groped for words.
 


“Every
day is a learning experience,” he said. “We’ve got guys who, none of us
have really played together. Every walkthrough is important.
Every meeting is important. Certainly, games are the most important
because that’s when we show what we’re made of. We’re trying to do the
right thing. It hasn’t always turned out that way to this point but
we’re going to keep working at it and hopefully every
week we make improvements.”


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