FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Perceptions.
That’s what it’s really all about.
The New England Patriots are 2-0, but they’re not playing well and could easily be 0-2.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are 0-2, but they’re playing well and could easily be 2-0.
The Patriots’ offense, once one of the most feared in the NFL, is now a shadow of its former self, Tom Brady unable to hook up with his rookie receivers on the simplest of routes.
The Buccaneers, meanwhile, are a tough-luck team having lost both games on field goals in the final 10 seconds.
Maybe the Bucs are better than 0-2. The Patriots certainly think so. But they’d say that no matter the opponent.
The reality for the Patriots is that things aren’t as bad as they seem.
For all their offensive struggles — and there have been many — the Patriots have won both games. And as offensive tackle Sebastian Vollmer said on Wednesday, “I’ll take the win. I don’t want to lose pretty.”
Talk to anyone in the Patriots’ locker room and they don’t see a team in trouble.
They see a team working to get better.
“I’ve always said you don’t know what type of team you’re going to be for another few months,” said Brady in his weekly press briefing. “So we’ve still got a long way to go. Everyone’s got to take that time to be playing their very, very best.”
In last week’s 13-10 ugly win over the New York Jets, Brady was far from his best. He completed 19 of 39 passes (49 percent) for 185 yards. That was the first time since Dec. 20, 2009 (a span of 57 games) that Brady hadn’t completed 50 percent of his passes in a game.
He let his frustrations out during that game, often at the expense of his young wide receivers.
But on Wednesday, he insisted that they’re not the only ones who need to get better.
“I said after the game that the burden is on all of us, it’s not the receiver position,” he said. “It’s the quarterback position, most important. That’s what I’ve got to focus on. The better I am out there, the better we’re going to be as an offense.
“I’ve got to focus on doing my job the best I can.”
He talked a lot about trust, how it’s gained in practice, in meeting rooms, in film study. He talked about how much time he has already spent with this group of receivers, which includes rookies Kenbrell Thompkins, Aaron Dobson and Josh Boyce. And it’s not just about him being able to trust that they will catch every ball he throws to them.
“It goes both ways,” he said. It’s them trusting me that I’m going to put the ball in position so they don’t get hit and can do things full speed and not worry that I’m throwing into something. It’s just a lot of work, a lot of repetition. It’s a lot of communication on the practice field and all these things we do at practice, through walk-throughs, through meetings. Hopefully they pay off.
“You’ve just got to put the work in, got to put the time in. We’ve been doing certainly a lot of that. I can’t remember a year where we’ve spent as much time together since the spring. It’s going to pay off at some point.”
Realistically, there is a cutoff point. If the problems persist deep into the season, then it’s time to go in another direction.
But, to a man, the Patriots say it’s far too early to be worrying about how the offense is performing.
“Obviously there’s things you want to do better, and you can do better and you have done better,” said Vollmer. “You want to produce on game day, that’s what we strive for, that it all comes together.”
Tight end Michael Hoomanawanui and Vollmer understand the perception that the team is struggling. This is an offense that routinely put up 30 points a game for the last couple of seasons. Right now they’ve scored 36 in two games.
Even they expect to do better.
“I think our personal expectations are high,” said Vollmer. “You always want to do good. You want to have a perfect game which, how achievable that is, is questionable. But you strive for that. As a player, you want to set high goals that you want to achieve.”
It’s still early and the Patriots are looking to build on what they’ve started.
“You don’t want to be playing your best football the first or second game,” said Hoomanawanui. “That being said, you don’t want to throw away games either. We’re just trying to build and get better each and every day and play our best football toward the end of the year.”
Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at: