One Face Key To The Patriots Offense

New England's offense gets back on track with one player in particular, and it's not Tom Brady or Wes Welker.

TE Hernandez adds key component to Patriots' offensive mix

   The Patriots offense has been the best the NFL has to offer through the first five weeks of the 2011 season. Obviously the main reason for that is Tom Brady. Not far behind -- the ridiculous start by wide receiver Wes Welker.

   But one important aspect of the offense was absent for a couple weeks. Maybe not surprisingly that stretch included Brady's worst game of the season and the team's only loss to date.

   With tight end Aaron Hernandez sidelined for New England's trips to Buffalo and Oakland with a left knee injury, Brady became more dependent on Welker as the passing attack became a bit more predictable and one-dimensional. Over that two-game stretch more than half of Brady's total completions in each contest went to Welker. Brady threw four interceptions in the loss to the Bills, and had his two worst games of the year in terms of passer rating and completion percentage.

   Make no mistake, New England's offense was very good even without Hernandez, but it's much more difficult with the versatile second-year tight end back in the lineup as he was in Sunday's win over the Jets.

   Sporting a bulky brace on his left knee against New York, Hernandez returned with five receptions for 56 yards. Brady threw in his direction (nine targets) more often than any other receiver, including a couple just-miss deep balls early in the game.

   "Aaron has really worked hard the last couple of weeks to get back out there," Bill Belichick said after the Patriots 30-21 victory over the Jets. "He's in here early, he stays late; he's leaving when the coaches are leaving. He's getting a lot of extra treatment. He was able to come out and practice later on in the week and handle a little more each day and kept getting better, so we felt confident going into the game -- and he felt confident going into the game. Again, he got behind the defense a couple times, so he obviously got his speed back. I thought he had a good couples days of practice at the end of the week and was able to carry it over into the game. He's a tough guy to match up against. He's a good player."

   As Belichick referenced, Hernandez is a very difficult matchup for opposing defenses.

   The 6-1, 245-pound tight end is generally used as a slot receiver in New England's spread formation. But he also gets reps as an in-line tight end as well as in the backfield or as a motion man.

   Despite sitting out the two weeks with the injury, Hernandez ranks fourth on New England with 19 catches for 221 yards and a pair of scores. Beyond the simple production, he adds another weapon to the mix, thus forcing opposing defenses to be spread even thinner.

   Though Welker -- who leads the NFL with 45 catches through five games -- had a season-low five receptions against the Jets, he averaged 24.8 yards a catch thanks in large part to a 73-yard play.

   "Aaron is such a great player, anytime you can get more weapons out there on the field and more places that we can go with the ball, it's always going to help us out," Welker said. "It's always great to get those weapons out there."

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\r\n","mobileBody":"    The Patriots offense has been the best the NFL has to offer through the first five weeks of the 2011 season. Obviously the main reason for that is Tom Brady. Not far behind -- the ridiculous start by wide receiver Wes Welker.    But one important aspect of the offense was absent for a couple weeks. Maybe not surprisingly that stretch included Brady's worst game of the season and the team's only loss to date.    With tight end Aaron Hernandez sidelined for New England's trips to Buffalo and Oakland with a left knee injury, Brady became more dependent on Welker as the passing attack became a bit more predictable and one-dimensional. Over that two-game stretch more than half of Brady's total completions in each contest went to Welker. Brady threw four interceptions in the loss to the Bills, and had his two worst games of the year in terms of passer rating and completion percentage.    Make no mistake, New England's offense was very good even without Hernandez, but it's much more difficult with the versatile second-year tight end back in the lineup as he was in Sunday's win over the Jets.    Sporting a bulky brace on his left knee against New York, Hernandez returned with five receptions for 56 yards. Brady threw in his direction (nine targets) more often than any other receiver, including a couple just-miss deep balls early in the game.    \"Aaron has really worked hard the last couple of weeks to get back out there,\" Bill Belichick said after the Patriots 30-21 victory over the Jets. \"He's in here early, he stays late; he's leaving when the coaches are leaving. He's getting a lot of extra treatment. He was able to come out and practice later on in the week and handle a little more each day and kept getting better, so we felt confident going into the game -- and he felt confident going into the game. Again, he got behind the defense a couple times, so he obviously got his speed back. I thought he had a good couples days of practice at the end of the week and was able to carry it over into the game. He's a tough guy to match up against. He's a good player.\"    As Belichick referenced, Hernandez is a very difficult matchup for opposing defenses.    The 6-1, 245-pound tight end is generally used as a slot receiver in New England's spread formation. But he also gets reps as an in-line tight end as well as in the backfield or as a motion man.    Despite sitting out the two weeks with the injury, Hernandez ranks fourth on New England with 19 catches for 221 yards and a pair of scores. Beyond the simple production, he adds another weapon to the mix, thus forcing opposing defenses to be spread even thinner.    Though Welker -- who leads the NFL with 45 catches through five games -- had a season-low five receptions against the Jets, he averaged 24.8 yards a catch thanks in large part to a 73-yard play.    \"Aaron is such a great player, anytime you can get more weapons out there on the field and more places that we can go with the ball, it's always going to help us out,\" Welker said. \"It's always great to get those weapons out there.\" Week 5 Game Thread: Patriots vs Cowboys For more Patriots news follow us via Twitter: Follow @patriotsinsider Or find us on Facebook: ","skipOnMobile":false,"media":[],"dateOverride":"2011-10-12T21:10:00","authorOverride":"Sports Xchange","role":"","isPremium":true,"isHotNews":false,"isRumor":false,"syndicationFlag":true,"isClassified":true,"hotNamesLinked":true,"storyImage":"[MEDIA:986027]","mainImage":{},"thumbnailImage":"[THUMBNAIL:986027]","heroImage":{},"authorImage":"","tags":[{"id":"592","name":"Florida"},{"id":"10026","name":"Florida - 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