by Chris Warner, Patriots Daily Staff
All we’ll say about last week’s 34-31 upset to Buffalo is that a 21-0 lead – and 31 points overall – should be good enough to win.
The fact that is wasn’t? Well, that has us concerned about next week’s trip to Oakland.
All Creatures Great And Small: That summarizes Tom Brady’s two-man receiving crew, from the mighty Rob Gronkowski to the diminutive Wes Welker. Deion Branch has trouble breaking free from man-to-man coverage, Aaron Hernandez is hurt, and no other pass-catcher has distinguished himself for New England.
If Oakland plays solid pass defense against those two, Brady just doesn’t have a lot of other targets.
Ochocinco Over-thinko: Speaking of pass-catchers, New England could have used one on that long throw to Chad Ochocinco. We’re beginning to wonder if he’ll ever figure out the offense. On the “JG” scale, Ochocinco’s much closer to Joey Galloway (never got it) than Jabar Gaffney (took him a month). We can’t think of an in-between example of a receiver who learned the offense after several weeks.
Maybe Ochocinco will be the first. Any maybe scientists will discover that pumpkin lattes help you lose weight. One can only dream.
Darren To Run: Last week, the Pats faced running back Fred Jackson. This week, it’s Darren McFadden, who ran over the Jets like they were lines on a parking lot. Maybe Albert Haynesworth will return, but the Patriots can’t depend on the big man to improve their defense – they have to do that without him.
Everybody Hurts: Haynesworth, Hernandez and safety Patrick Chung missed the Buffalo game with injuries. Considering that New England’s safeties looked about as lost as Hansel and Gretel, Chung’s absence may prove the most costly.
Between Devin And Hell: Whatever happened to Devin McCourty, rookie Pro Bowl cornerback? Remember him? He was the guy you put on the opposing team’s best receiver for solid, consistent coverage. Last year he was Superman doing his job; this year he’s the Human Torch getting lit up all over the field. Both McCourty and Leigh Bodden, dependable starters from the past, have looked lost and overmatched.
Lest we blame only the defensive backfield…
Sackless: If you’re feeling too good about the world right now, take a gander at the list of defensive stats for sacks vs. Buffalo. We’ll save you the trouble, as it’s just a tall column of zeroes. Switching to the 4-3 and getting two platoons of so-called pass-rushers was supposed to improve the Patriots’ ability to get to the opposing QB. The Raiders aren’t known as a great passing team, but with time to lounge around the pocket, even Jason Campbell can become a threat.
Defenses Have No Answer To This Ridley: On the positive side (and we need a positive side), rookie running back Stevan Ridley showed some promise. Maybe he’ll get the call for more carries at Oakland. Shouldn’t hurt.
Home Boy: Brady’s traveling back to his home state, where he should get back to playing more like his old self. If not, it’s another chance for the defense to demonstrate some form of improvement.
Oh, for the days where a 21-0 lead meant the outcome had little doubt.
Email Chris Warner at [email protected]