All I have been hearing this season is that the Patriots are in trouble. Their offense has been lackluster, and their defense won’t be able to carry them all season. Gronkowski and Amendola are always hurt, and the rookie receivers drop everything in sight. Man do people overreact and complain over every little thing.
The Patriots are 4-0 for the first time since 2007, when they completed the first undefeated regular season in NFL history. Granted, they haven’t been winning games the same way they were back in ’07, but wins are wins no matter how you disguise them.
Over the last six seasons, we have seen the Patriots do some pretty remarkable things on offense. Brady has thrown for over 5,000 yards in a season, Ridley has rushed for over 1,000 yards in a season, and Gronk has been nothing short of amazing. However, the offense is a lot different than it was just eight short months ago. Wes Welker is now a Bronco, Aaron Hernandez is locked away in a prison cell, Deion Branch and Brandon Lloyd are free agents, and Danny Woodhead is off in San Diego. Not to mention that Rob Gronkowski has yet to play a down this season due to injuries.
The Patriots brought in Danny Amendola to replace Wes Welker and he looked great in week 1. The only problem is that he hasn’t played in a game since. Aaron Dobson, Josh Boyce, and Kenbrell Thompkins were brought in as rookies, and have all had their ups and downs early on. The offense has been going through major growing pains to start the season, but should Patriot fans be optimistic? I mean, they haven’t looked great on offense and yet they are still 4-0. Let’s take a look into what the numbers say.
In 2012, the Patriots were averaging over 33 points per game through their first four contests. This year, that number is down to about 22 points per game. For Tom Brady, it only gets worse. In his first four games last season, Tom Brady had thrown for 1,227 yards and eight touchdowns. Through the first four games this season, the numbers are down to 1,014 yards and seven touchdowns. But I bet the rushing attack has picked up the slack so far though, right? Well, that is not the case. This season, the Patriots have combined to rush for exactly 500 yards. At this point last season, they had rushed for 576 yards. So how does this team keep finding a way to win?
The Patriots have not had a true defensive identity in the last 10 years. When they were winning Super Bowls, the Patriots were always a defensive oriented team. Recently, the offense has taken over and the team has relied on Brady and company to win them games. This season, it seems the Patriots have found their defensive identity. This season, the Patriots are allowing roughly 14 points per game. At this stage of the season last year, they were allowing over 23 points per game. Through the entire 2012 season, the defense had seven games where they had given up at least 24 points in a game. This season, they have yet to surrender 24 points to any team. The defense has picked up the slack tremendously this season, and it seems as if they are primed to keep it up for the remainder of the season.
One thing that makes me optimistic about the offense is that the Patriots have been finding ways to score points without Danny Amendola, Rob Gronkowksi, and Shane Vereen. In the past, we have seen Tom Brady become reliant on throwing the ball to guys like Welker, Gronk, and even Hernandez. With all of Brady’s top guys either hurt or off the team, he is forced to build strong relationships with other recievers on the team. This will pay huge dividends for the Pats going forward. The key to beating New England’s offense in the past was to jam Welker and the receivers at the line, and disrupt the timing of the group. Now, you have guys like Thompkins, Dobson, and Edelman who can contribute when Amendola or Gronkowski get pegged with those pesky double teams. The offense may look shaky at the moment, but they will catch fire come December and January.
The Patriots have a long way to go this season on their quest for Lombardi trophy number four. Cincinnati poses a difficult challenge for them in week 5, and it gets no easier when Drew Brees and his Saints march into Gillette the week after. But after four weeks, the team has not lost a game, and they seem to only be getting better. Can we start ringing the 16-0 bells yet? Sorry, too early.