September 13, 2013

Patriots win but here's the catch: Receivers are missing

- FOXBOROUGH, Mass. - These are not your father's New England Patriots.

Or even your brother's.

Tom Brady doesn't have his binkies any more. And the offense is going to suffer.

Wes Welker is gone, hanging out in Denver with Peyton Manning. Deion Branch is gone, waiting for a phone call with a Foxborough area code. Aaron Hernandez is in jail. Rob Gronkowski is hurt.

The guys that Brady trusted to catch his passes these last few years aren't here anymore. And the guys replacing them are not quite ready for prime time.

That was evident in Thursday night's 13-10 victory over the New York Jets at Gillette Stadium.

The Patriots have celebrated ugly wins in the past. None were as gross as this one.

Missing Danny Amendola, the veteran brought in to replace Welker, who had 10 catches in Week One but will be out with a groin injury for a while, certainly affected the game plan.

And while Julian Edelman stepped up with the best game of his career, with 13 catches for 78 yards, Brady had few other options.

The Patriots couldn't run the ball effectively, only 54 total yards, and couldn't sustain drives. Heck, rookie Ryan Allen tied a team record with 11 punts. Eleven!

Time after time Brady threw passes that may have been caught by more experienced receivers, but his rookies, Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins, couldn't make the adjustments on the pass route or simply couldn't hold on.

Surely they displayed signs of potential.

On the game's first drive, Brady play-faked the Jets into thinking it was a run, then lobbed a pass to a wide-open Dobson for a 39-yard touchdown. It was Dobson's first NFL catch and touchdown, and it was spectacular to watch.

Thompkins, meanwhile, appeared to have made a diving finger-tip catch of a Brady pass in the end zone for a touchdown. But the play was reviewed and ruled incomplete because the ball touched the ground.

Brady targeted them 17 times; they caught only five balls.

"I'm glad we won," said Brady. "Obviously we've got a lot of room to improve."

Brady didn't hide his displeasure. At times he yelled at the receivers on the field. At others he barked on the sidelines.

Asked if he was frustrated, he said, "I think everybody was when you don't execute the way you're capable of. We've got to keep fighting."

Brady knows the only way to improve is keep working. "It doesn't come magically together. You've got to work at it."

Brady likes the new kids -- "They're trying hard, they work hard, they've got a lot of skill, they're great kids." -- and he wants them to keep a positive attitude. He acknowledged that he probably needed to watch his body language. He's the leader and everyone looks to him.

All this team can do, he said, is keep working.

"We have a long way to go," he said. "No one is going to come to the rescue to save the day. We've got to keep fighting."

The defense will keep fighting. Four sacks, a fumble recovery and three fourth-quarter interceptions carried the Patriots.

AqibTalib had two of the interceptions and forced the fumble when he kicked the ball (accidentally) out of receiver Stephen Hill's hands.

Until Brady and the offense finds its form, that's how the Patriots are going to have to win.

Get used to it. It may take a while.

Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at:

mlowe@pressherald.com

Twitter: MikeLowePPH

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