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  Saturday, August 30, 2014
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xtra xtra!
Long Road for the Pats
By Paul Noonan

     The good news is that the Patriots won their opener against division rival Buffalo.  The bad news is that they didn’t do it in convincing fashion.  Once again the defense stole the spotlight as their safety in the fourth quarter turned out to be the winning score.  The offense, however, was a point of concern.  Sure they scored enough to get the win, and nineteen points isn’t atrocious, but there was no dominance on the attack.  Brady’s numbers were average.  The passing game was almost non- existent.  Watson, the leading receiver, had only 50 yards on the game.  Yes, we all know the Patriots are a fan of spreading the wealth, but there’s a difference between spreading and spreading it thin, and the Pats tinkered with that line.  The Patriots rushing attack also spread the wealth, but was a little more effective.  The Pats’ rushers combined for 20 more yards than the receiving game a big reason that the Pats were able to squeak by with the win.

             

     Apparently, the Patriots’ brass doesn’t seem to think offense is a problem as only hours after the win they let go of their best receiver, Deion Branch.  Whether or not Branch was worth what he was asking isn’t really the issue, the issue is that Branch was almost all the Pats’ had left.  Ben Watson should be a top five tight end, Daniel Graham is reliable and Chad Jackson could become really good, but Branch was a notch above them all.  You don’t just luck into winning the Super Bowl MVP (and he probably should have won it the year beforehand, too).  Perhaps the Patriots have another receiver in mind (David Boston was recently released as was Todd Pinkston), or maybe they plan on changing their offensive strategy, but continuing to use the offense from this Sunday may lead to some problems against tougher defensive teams and make for a tough season. 

             

     Defensively, the Patriots looked pretty good.  Part of the reason they got the victory was because the Pats kept the Bills’ offense even quieter than their own.  Losman had just one more passing yard than Brady, and the Bills’ rushing attack was held to less than 100 yards.  While they didn’t cause any turnovers, they did get to Losman three times and of course got the game winning points.  Once again the defense gave reason to believe the team will be able to compete for the playoffs.  And once again they kept the offense from feeling too much pressure to score.

             

     It wasn’t the most convincing win for the Patriots, but nevertheless it was a win.  Better yet it was a win against a division opponent, so things in Foxboro aren’t too bad.  The Patriots have the makings of a playoff team, and to count them out with Belichick and Brady running things would be crazy.  Even still the opener did raise some question marks that the Pats will need to address if they hope to challenge for the title again.  The biggest question is about the offense.  Will Big Ben and Graham be enough of an arsenal for Brady to work with or will another receiver be needed?  God forbid one of those two gets injured (knock on wood), then what?  Could the Patriots still win without one of those two?  With the defense they have it is reasonable to believe the Patriots could, but to put that much pressure on them is a little unfair.  There are two sides of a popular sports phrase:  a good defense leads to a good offense and/or a good offense leads to a good defense.  Frankly, it’s both.  The Pats have a good defense, so if the former holds true they’d be fine.  However, after game one the Patriots had more of a good enough offense.  And if it stays that way the equation might change to ‘a good enough offense leads to a good enough defense.’  For a team that hopes to win it all that won’t be good enough.  



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