FOXBOROUGH – Tom Brady, normally infallible in these parts, is finding himself dealing with one of the greatest challenges of his career as he oversees the growth and development of a young group of receivers who are cutting their teeth as they go. In doing so, he’s finding it harder and harder to find patience and understanding, two traits that he’s not well-known for but needs dearly.
“I think I have to do a better job with my body language,” said Brady, whose frustration was evident in Thursday’s 13-10 victory over the Jets. “I definitely can improve that.”
Working with rookies Kenbrell Thompkins and Aaron Dobson, as well as veteran Julian Edelman Thursday night, Brady turned out one of the more forgettable performances of his career. In the team’s second game, his poor chemistry with the wide receivers is quickly becoming the identity behind this offense. Here are my takeaways with that in mind:
1. Efficiency is suffering — Because of the chemistry woes, Brady was a paltry 19 of 39 passing for 185 yards and a touchdown against the Jets. He had 71.0 passer rating and completed only 49 percent of his throws. But, more importantly, the Patriots were an abhorrent 4 of 18 on third downs and went 0 for 3 in the red zone. The Patriots had six three-and-outs Thursday. It was a dismal outing for last year’s top-ranked passing offense.
2. The rookies have uneven performances again — Dobson and Thompkins both had their moments against the Jets. Dobson caught a 39-yard touchdown in the first quarter, the very first play of his career. Thompkins caught a 38-yard pass in the second quarter to set up a Stephen Gostkowski field goal. But both got into trouble reading and reacting to coverages Thursday. And both had some drops. Brady targeted the two 17 times, but connected on only five passes for 103 yards. That’s not nearly good enough.
3. Edelman was the main man — Edelman was the focal point of the Patriots’ passing offense, targeted 18 times Thursday. The team looked to use his speed on short, quick passes to get him in space where he does his most damage. He caught 13 balls, a career high, for 78 yards. But he also ran into trouble connecting with Brady, drawing the evil eye of his quarterback on a couple of occasions. It just goes to show that not one person, even the team’s leading target, is completely on the same page as Brady.
4. The defense saved them — The Patriots forced four turnovers, including two interceptions by Aqib Talib. But there was also significant pressure from the team’s defensive line. Chandler Jones (2 sacks), Tommy Kelly (sack), and Michael Buchanan (sack) all got in on the action. Rob Ninkovich also made his presence felt. In holding the Jets to 10 points, and 318 yards of offense, the defense proved that it is gelling while the offense is still finding its rhythm.
5. The running game was flat — Stevan Ridley, coming off a huge fumble against the Bills, didn’t put the ball on the ground once Thursday. But he didn’t do much else either. He had 16 carries for 40 yards (2.5 yards per carry). His longest run was nine yards. The Patriots finished with 54 total rushing yards and had only one first down on the ground. That can’t all be attributed to the loss of Shane Vereen. And that isn’t nearly good enough for a possible Super Bowl contender.