NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS’ head coach Bill Belichick talks on the sidelines in the first half of an NFL football game against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday.

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS’ head coach Bill Belichick talks on the sidelines in the first half of an NFL football game against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday.


The New England Patriots have played all season without their top two tight ends and wide receivers from last season’s high-scoring team.

And, in a way, without the quarterback who threw them the ball.

Yes, that’s still Tom Brady taking the snaps. But his play hardly resembles the way he performed last year when he led the best offense in the NFL.

“We’ve got to start making the plays that NFL players make,” Brady said Monday during his weekly appearance on WEEI radio. “If we don’t, we’re going to continue to struggle and not score points and put too much pressure on our defense.”

The NFL’s two-time MVP had his worst game in several seasons in Sunday’s 13-6 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.

Brady’s passer rating of 52.2 was his lowest in 59 games and his completion rate of 47.4 was his lowest in 117 games.

For the season, his rating and completion percentage are lower than they were at the end of any season since he became a starter in 2001. And he’s on pace for his fewest touchdown passes and most sacks since 2002.

Bad numbers, to be sure, but the Patriots still lead the AFC East with a 4-1 record going into Sunday’s game against the unbeaten New Orleans Saints.

And it’s not as if Brady is surrounded by an all-star cast.

Tight ends Rob Gronkowski, recovering from forearm and back surgery, and Aaron Hernandez, who was cut and is in jail and has been charged with first-degree murder, combined for 106 catches last year. Without them, the Patriots’ tight ends have five catches.

Wide receivers Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd are gone after totaling 192 catches last season.

Their top two running backs are banged up with Shane Vereen out for at least four more games with a broken wrist and Stevan Ridley missing the Bengals game with a knee injury.

So the Patriots have tried to get by with a bunch of newcomers — rookie receivers Kenbrell Thompkins, Aaron Dobson and Josh Boyce and veterans Matt Mulligan at tight end and LeGarrette Blount at running back.

But coach Bill Belichick dismissed the idea that it would be unrealistic to expect consistency early in the season from firstyear Patriots.

‘A lot of football’

“Everybody that’s out there has been out there, played a lot of football for us this year,” he said. “We just didn’t overall offensively perform to the level that we did last week or that we’re capable of doing. I think everybody is accountable for that, the coaching staff, the players.

“We put ourselves in too many longyardage situations. We couldn’t convert in the red area and had some consistency running the ball but not nearly enough in the passing game, and not in any critical situations.”

The Patriots led the NFL last season with 34.8 points and 427.9 yards per game. This season they were 23rd with 19.0 points and 19th with 358.6 yards after Sunday’s games.

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