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Has Tom Brady, Patriots offense moved beyond slow start?

Posted by Erik Frenz  September 22, 2013 06:29 PM

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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- What a difference a week makes.

If you watched the New England Patriots offense put up 23 points on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday, you may have wondered what happened to the offense that couldn't get the wheels moving on offense against the New York Jets.

They struggled to start against the Buccaneers, punting on the first three drives of the game, but hit the gas in the second quarter and did more than enough to come away with the win. The stark differences were easy to notice. The wide receivers actually received, and the quarterback put them in a good position to succeed.

"It's interesting," Brady said, "because you go through the spring camps and practices, and because it's not real competition and there's no scoreboard, in some ways, you get a false sense of security that things are going the right way, and then you have preseason games and practices and things are going the right way, and none of it matters because what matters is what you do during the regular season."

Now, they're 3-0 for the first time since 2007, when they had one of the best offenses in the NFL. Who knew?

It's just one game, but quarterback Tom Brady and his rookie receivers Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins looked like they had finally worked out all the kinks and could be well on their way to fielding a formidable offense.

The duo finished with 10 catches for 93 yards and two touchdowns, both by Thompkins.

"Everyone had questions about his receiving corps," Buccaneers defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said, "and this guy has turned so many receivers into stars because of him. As long as Tom is under center and that coach is over there, they are still the Patriots."

Brady had his best performance of the season thus far, going 25-of-36 passing (69.4 percent) for 225 yards (6.3 YPA), two touchdowns and an interception.

He wasn't about to name himself MVP, though.

"I certainly could play better," he said. "The interception will bother me for the rest of the week until I get a chance to get out there again. And the missed touchdown pass, that was terrible. I expect to make those plays."

The missed touchdown pass came on a play-action fake, where Brady had both Thompkins and wide receiver Julian Edelman open and streaking toward the end zone, but the ball came out like one of those throws in Madden where you push two buttons at the same time. The interception -- a throw to tight end Zach Sudfeld in double coverage in the end zone -- was about as poor of a decision as you'll see Brady make, but everything else was about what we've come to expect from the franchise in his 12-plus years as a starter.

Our sample size for the wide receivers, however, is much smaller.

It would have been more worrisome if Thompkins and Dobson were struggling to get open; however, that wasn't the case, and with a small disconnect between the receivers dropping passes and the quarterback putting the ball in bad spots.

Regardless of where the blame belongs, the pressure was beginning to mount, but they're beginning to feel like things are clicking.

"The week of practice definitely helped," Dobson said. "As you know, we had a longer week and we had more practices, so I feel like we're definitely on [the same] page with each other and it showed out there in this game."

One game, however, won't be the measure of these receivers. Beyond that, there were some disconnects that could be improved. Of course, there were Brady's aforementioned misfires, but add on a Dobson drop and a pass that bounced on the turf inches in front of a diving Thompkins, and there were some opportunities left on the field.

All the individual players took steps forward this week, but week-to-week consistency is the only way we'll know how far they've come as a unit.




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About the author

Erik Frenz delivers analysis of the biggest news with the Patriots, including insight into the AFC East and New England's biggest rivals from a Patriots perspective. Erik is an interactive writer who engages his audience in his posts’ comments sections and on Twitter. Readers are encouraged to share their thoughts and ask questions. More »

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