By: Andrew Oak
The New Engalnd Patriots got annihilated, to put it lightly, on Monday Night Football and the ramifications for the aftermath of the game have been quite ridiculous. In a broader perspective, meaning without my biases of being the number one Pats fan in New England, the Patriots have some legitimate issues on both sides of the ball. Never in a million years did I think that Tom Brady would be utterly humiliated on national television (besides the Super Bowl) AND get pulled from a game in the beginning of the 4th quarter.
The aftermath of the 41-14 loss to KC has put a couple things into a better perspective for me regarding this 2014 Patriots team. Lets be honest. Most experts, local and national, had NE to win the AFC East with ease and casually meet up with Denver in the AFC Championship game. Understandable. So after starting off 2-1 to open the season, they had major issues in some areas of the field. Wide Receivers, O-Line, D-Line, Secondary, you name it, they had issues. Yet no one seemed to think that this group couldn't pull it together.
After the game, we heard multiple experts, including OUR OWN TEDY BRUSCHI rip the team apart saying that the Patriots don't have what they used to have for the last decade and that they are rapidly declining. Even RODNEY HARRISON said that Tom Brady looked 'scared for his life' out there. So is this an overreaction or is there something that NE fans should be concerned about? Ill give you five reasons that most people are critizing the Patriots after the MNF fiasco.
Reason #1: The Schedule
Glass Half Full: We are 4 games into the season. Lets not abandon ship quite yet because the Pats still have the easiest division in the history of divisions. EJ Manuel. Geno Smith. Ryan Tannehill. Check that. Kyle Orton, Michael Vick and Matt Moore. I would take Tom Brady over all 6 of those guys right now, for my future, for my fantasy team, doenst matter, the AFC East is still a joke this year.
Glass Half Empty: We are 4 games into the season and our wins are against Minnesota and Oakland and we are only averaging 18.25 PPG. The offense looks abysmal at times, while the running games seems to be non existent for a numerous amounts of drives. We manage only to score 16 points against Oakland and needed a last minute INT to get the W. Oh Boy. That is screaming out trouble before I even get to say the word.
Concern Level (1-10): 7 The schedule doesn't get easier. Cincinnati, Indy, Chicago, GB, Detroit, San Diego and the Broncos, to go along with 5 division games. Not looking to good.
Reason #2: Lack of Playmakers
Glass Half Full: The Patriots played a team that turned a new world record for the loudest stadium in history. Thats going to be a tough place to play no matter what time or day it is. That is certainly something that no team is used to. When the running game doesn't produce, you expect to throw the football. Edleman and Gronk have been inconsistent at times. The other WR's will have to find their way soon.
Glass Half Empty: Holy Crap, the Patriots offense is a funk. Honestly, I have never seen an offenses struggle to get a snap off and be scared of a four man pass rush. Tom Brady doesn't have the pocket presence that he once had, nor does he have the offensive line to help him establish a rhythm. Both true statements. The Logan Mankins trade isn't looking to good after all.
Concern Level (1-10): 8 The Patriots have no true down the field type playmakers. LaFell, Thompkins, Dobson are all either way too inconsistent or they are either healthy scratches. If you can't get on the field, its pretty tough to make an impact. They need to get Vereen, Gronk and Amendola more active in the offense.
Reason #3: Offensive Line
Glass Half Full: They are still getting into a groove as a couple rookies are taking over....wait wait....there is no glass half full, what games are you watching New England?
Glass Half Empty: 2 Rookies, No Mankins, Poor Tackle Play. No Chemistry. There are plenty of more reasons to diss this offensive line, but ill stay away (for now).
Concern Level (1-10): 10. 10. 10.
Reason #4: Tom Brady
Glass Half Full: Tom Brady has not played well, thats easy to say, but when you have different personnel every year and deal with a multitude of injuries and losing your best friend in Mankins, you might be weary to start the season. Even with training camps, it is very difficult to establish rhythms with revivers and tight ends if they aren't consistantly on the field.
Glass Half Empty: It feels like whenever Brady steps back for a pass, he isn't comfortable in the pocket at all. That is more of a testament on the O-Line, but Brady can't perform if he isn't protected. So now the question is, when they do protect, is he still producing and right now, that answer is no. Brady is throwing deep routes to Edelman and thats a huge problem. Brady needs to get the ball out quicker and be more efficient at the line of scrimmage like Peyton Manning. Brady needs to get in a better grove and start going into the hurry up offense again. McDaniels play calling has been very suspect to say the least.
Concern Level (1-10): 2. I believe that Tom Brady isn't the problem, but he has to step up his game if he wants to live his dreams of playing until he's 40 years old. Right now, people are creating his obituary, but thats is an overreaction, lets be honest.
Reason #5: Bill Belicheck
Glass Half Full: I think Bill just hasn't figured out his rosters potential yet. He doesn't have consistency at the WR, OL and DL positions. He may be feeling the losses of some of his coaching staff as well. The man in the hoodie definitely needs to pull something out of his sleeve. I have always loved the personal
Glass Half Empty: Holy Cow. Belicheck has undermined the talent he has on this team by starting two rookies on the O-Line and having Patrick Chung return kicks. Like what kind of crap is that seriously. Literally ANYBODY BUT CHUNG! I would rather have Amendola or even Wilfork running back kicks. He has literally brought nothing to the table. Don't get me started on Revis, he has looked pedestrian so far, but that could be on Bill for not having him be as aggressive as he can. Also. Josh McDaniels has done a poor job at calling plays so far and needs to start using the hurry up offense so that we can keep the pressure on the defense. The Patriots have been running the ball on awkward situations when the running game isn't working. Passing the ball early and often (Look at Week 1 vs. Miami) and they just don't know their identity yet. The next few games will be a test to the coaching staff to see how they can adjust to their problems.
Concern Level (1-10): 8. McDaniels hasn't found his offensive identity. Belicheck's depth chart is inconsistent on both sides of the ball. At least Matthew Slater is still a lock to be Special Teams Pro Bowler this year.
Overall Concern Level : 7
For me, the offensive line is the biggest concern so far. If you can't protect Brady, this season will be very, very long. As far as the people saying 'the dynasty is over', lets pump the brakes a little bit. 2-2, four games into a regular season and we are going to trash the Patriots because they look really bad. In perspective, the AFC East certainly helps your cause. The Patriots will get some help on defense by getting back Brandon Browner after his four game suspension. Expect the defense to carry some of the weight during the next two months of the season. There is no way this team finishes 8-8 or below. A more realistic finish will be somewhere from 10 to 11 wins. So lets stop all the crazy talk about how 'the dynasty is over' and 'the whole QB controversy talk'. Media outlets haven't seen the Patriots in this type of state in a LONG LONG time. So let the media have its glory days of ripping the hearts out Tom Brady and Bill Belicheck.
The Patriots have problems to fix, no doubt about it, but these problems have been fixed before under the Belicheck era, so expect some more of the same when it comes to tweaking lineups and exploring different personnel. Expect a slight change in the offensive playbook as well. Establishing the run, getting the O-Line to be more physical instead of them having to block athletic defensive ends every single play. These tweaks will help Brady stay upright more often than not. This MNF performance was a reality check for the Patriots, lets just hope they get the message.