The New England Patriots have moved to 4-0 this season after barely squeaking past the Buffalo Bills. Despite emerging victorious last Sunday, the Patriots offense struggled mightily as Tom Brady completed only 46 percent of his passes for just 150 yards and one interception. In addition, the team’s running game failed to make much of an impact as they collectively rushed for 77 yards on 20 attempts. However, through only four weeks, there is absolutely no reason to panic over Sunday’s offensive performance.
Offensive Performance In Context
Entering Sunday’s matchup, the Bills defense was statistically ranked as a top five overall unit, which also featured a top five secondary ranking. The Buffalo defense proved their rankings by holding New England to just 16 points on Sunday. Although, while Buffalo’s defense is legit, the Patriots certainly did not help themselves in their 16-10 win. The offense’s day was highlighted by wide receiver injuries and poor quarterback play. Number one wideout, Julian Edelman, played with a lingering rib injury and was seen in game wearing a flak jacket rather than his normal backplate. Edelman was clearly laboring in this game as he tallied just four catches for 30 yards and dropped a pass. While Edelman’s injury is not considered to be serious, the combination of the injury along with Buffalo’s top five secondary, lead to a less than impactful performance from the reigning Super Bowl MVP. Also, New England’s number two receiver Josh Gordon, was almost invisible as he recorded a measly three catches for 46 yards. Gordon was coming off a tough week three game against the Jets where he sustained a minor finger injury and was very slow to get up after landing hard on his hip. While the big bodied receiver did not appear on the injury report leading up to the Bills game, it is completely possible that Gordon was still feeling the affects of his tough week three game.
Quarterback Tom Brady was far from good in this game and while his injured receiving core played a role, he was simply not feeling it on Sunday. Brady’s performance featured a few out of character throws that were off target and high. Furthermore, Brady looked to be zoning in early on receiver Phillip Dorsett, which caused him to miss other open receivers. This is very uncharacteristic of Brady and by no means do I think his passing vision is a problem. Instead, the favoritism towards Dorsett is likely due to Brady wanting to limit Edelman and Gordon’s usage as he knew they were banged up. Undoubtedly, Brady had an atypical performance that should not be of major concern heading into this Sunday against the 0-4 Washington Redskins.
Offensive Reinforcements for Week Five
Earlier Tuesday afternoon, the Patriots released offensive lineman Caleb Benenoch in order to create a roster spot for returning tight end Benjamin Watson. Watson is coming off a four game suspension and despite being 38 years of age, he will be a major upgrade at tight end. Watson is by no means a Pro Bowl level talent but outside of him, New England has absolute bums at the position. Currently, the Patriots have been using former undrafted free agent, Matt LaCosse, and former seventh round pick, Ryan Izzo, at tight end. Neither of whom have been utilized much through four games simply because they are not impactful NFL tight ends. The veteran spent his first six seasons in the league with the Patriots and knows the offense well. Additionally, Watson is a smart player who has a good relationship with Brady that includes a mutal understanding of how to run Brady’s prefered routes. At the very least, Watson should be able to stress opposing defenses in the short middle of the field while taking some of the workload off Edelman and Gordon.
The Patriots showed toughness last Sunday against one of the league’s best defenses while playing with an injury battered offense. Fortunately, the Patriots are not scheduled to see another top ten overall defense until week 12, when they face the Dallas Cowboys. While rankings and records can, and will, change before that time, New England is likely not to see another defense of Buffalo’s caliber until Week 12.
Rian Queen is a Contributor for the Unwrapped Sports Network website. Follow him @takes_boston on Twitter.