By Patrick Coyne
No Danny Amendola and a rookie receiving corps spelled a rough night for Tom Brady.
During the 40-9 drubbing at the paws of the Detroit Lions Thursday night, it is no coincidence the New England Patriot's weakest game of the preseason came during the team's first contest without Amendola on the field. Since Wes Welker left for the Broncos and Amendola became the guy to fill his shoes, it's apparent the key for the 2013 Patriots success may rely on Amendola's chemistry with Brady and his health.
With Amendola out with an undisclosed injury, the Patriots offense seemed out of sync for most of the night. The opening drive began well by the Patriots, but ended with a mistake by a rookie. Brady completed his first two passes, both to rookie receiver Kenbrell Thompkins, as well as a pass to five-year veteran receiver Julian Edelman to move the team downfield. The surge was halted when rookie free agent tight end Zach Sudfeld put the ball on the ground in the red zone for the team's first turnover of the game. A sure scoring drive wasted and Detroit turned the rookie miscue into three points.
Amendola's absence put increased pressure on the younger receivers and they failed for the first time this preseason. Sudfeld's fumble was the start of several rookie mistakes throughout the first half. Brady sent perfect passes that were dropped by rookie receivers Thompkins and Aaron Dobson. Brady's first interception of the preseason came after Dobson could not complete his route in time when he collided with a Lions defensive back. The Patriots had four first half turnovers, including three lost fumbles, two Brady sacks, and one interception.
Even Edelman showed he's a serviceable slot receiver, but will never be a replacement for Welker or Amendola. Edelman finished with only three catches for 18 yards.
The Patriots' only bright spot also had a blemish. Although Brady was able to find Thompkins eight times for 116 yards, Thompkins dropped a key third and short pass stopping an early Patriots drive.
Despite Thompkin's dropped pass, half of Brady's completions went to Thompkins, who averaged 14.5 yards per catch. Thompkins also demonstrated an ability to be a vertical threat, with a 37 yard reception on the first drive and another 27 yard catch in the second quarter.
However, Amendola's absence re-affirmed that if the Patriots are to succeed this season, he will need to stay on the field. With all the rookies, he may be Brady's only reliable veteran option when pass protection breaks down.
Patrick Coyne will be entering his sophomore year at Boston College as a staff writer for the school newspaper. He has been following the Patriots his entire life and has extensive knowledge of the team.
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