The pressure is on in New England.
It's not the pressure that Bill Belichick probably
envisioned when he was constructing his post-lockout Patriots' roster
on the fly this summer.
Theoretically, Belichick traded for wide receiver
Chad Ochocinco to add another element to a passing game that led New
England as the highest-scoring attack in the league in 2010.
But Ochocinco has struggled mightily in getting
his mind wrapped around New England's complex passing game and his
confidence seems to be in the gutter right now. He's caught just five
passes for 87 yards in three games, but his most memorable plays from
Sunday's loss in Buffalo were a rounded-off route that contributed to
an interception and an ugly drop on a would-be 41-yard touchdown pass.
Belichick's vision isn't coming together any
better on the defensive side of the ball for Belichick.
When he traded for Albert Haynesworth and signed
veteran defensive linemen Shaun Ellis, Mark Anderson and Andre Carter
he did so with the idea that they'd help put pressure on opposing
passers in New England's new-look 4-3 front. Theoretically, a defense
that ranked dead-last in third-down defense and struggled overall
against the pass a year ago would get a boost up front.
The best-laid plan often goes awry, and nothing
could be truer than with the theory about the Patriots defense.
Haynesworth has been basically a non-factor,
including missing Sunday's game with a back injury. The other three
have failed to inject much life into a pass rush that's contributed
mightily, or fail to contribute as it would be, to a defense that's
allowed 1,406 yards in three games.
The failings of Belichick offseason as a whole,
especially on defense, have increased the pressure in an unintended way
on Tom Brady. The reigning NFL MVP essentially has to be perfect if New
England is to win games against decent competition at this point. Brady
was just that through two wins to open the season, but when he threw
four interceptions in Buffalo it led to the Bills first win over New
England since 2003.
So while opposing quarterbacks are feeling
absolutely no pressure these days -- including on Sunday when Buffalo's
Ryan Fiztpatrick was not sacked and hit just twice on 40 pass attempts
-- Brady is feeling as much pressure to carry New England's winning
chances as ever.
Even his teammates realize and know it simply has
to be better.
"This isn't just on Tom. It's everybody," Welker
said of what needs to improve.
"We just need to try to score more and give up
less," Belichick said in his bottom-line style.
Of course former might be hard for a team that has
scored at least 31 points in each of first three games. And considering
how poorly the defense is playing right now, the latter might be hard
Either way, the pressure is on Brady right now in
New England to carry the load.
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