September 19, 2013

Patriots Beat: Ugly wins? Yes, but Pats want more time to look their best

By Mike Lowe mlowe@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. - Perceptions.

click image to enlarge

Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib, left, intercepts a pass intended for Jets wide receiver Santonio Holmes (10) in front of Patriots cornerback Kyle Arrington (25) in the fourth quarter Sept. 12 in Foxborough, Mass.

The Associated Press

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.

(Continued on page 2)

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