Hands off the panic button, but the New England Patriots are definitely concerned about the direction in which the team appears to be headed following Sunday's sluggish 16-9 loss to the New York Jets.
Were it not for a spectacular play on special teams' in the season opener and the ensuing fourth-quarter rally, the Patriots would likely be 0-2 heading into next week's showdown against Atlanta.
What's the major malfunction? Though it's hard to pinpoint, the Patriots refuse to make excuses. They could fall back on the fact they've added several new players (some less experienced than others), but the team is saying it comes down to execution.
"There are always things to work on, but we need to do them better," head coach Bill Belichick said. "There're no excuses. We just need to do a better job. We've got to coach better. We've got to play better. We've got to be able to perform better in games like that. We're going to go back to work and that's what we're going to do."
One problem has been the lack of balance -- and overall production -- offensively. The return of Tom Brady was supposed to bring back the days of the 2007 record-setting offense, but the results have been mediocre thus far.
In two games, Brady has attempted 100 passes, which is far too many for a team that added veteran running back Fred Taylor during the offseason and still employs former No. 1 pick Laurence Maroney. Brady is on pace to exceed the NFL record for attempts in a season at 800. Even with a quarterback as good as Brady and two standout receivers in Randy Moss and Wes Welker (inactive against the Jets), the Patriots need to do a better job establishing the run to make the passing game effective.
"I think the most important thing is that we function efficiently, move the ball, get in the end zone and keep them out," Belichick said. "That's what we're going to try to do. Whatever that entails, we'll do.
Pressed on whether or not he'd like to see more balance offensively, Belichick said, "I'd like to score more points."
"That's what the offense is out there for -- to score points," he added. "If that's throwing the ball seven or eight times a game, if we score a lot of points, that's good. If it's running the ball 70 times a game and we score a lot of points, that'd be fine with me, too.
"If it's some combination in the middle and we score a lot of points, that'd be good, but don't turn the ball over. However we can put points up on the board when the offensive unit's on the field, that's what our goal is, whether those are runs, or pass or whatever they are. If points are scored, then we're doing our job. If they're not, then that's not what good offense is."
--RB Fred Taylor averaged 5.8 yards per carry Sunday and proved to be New England's best weapon the ground despite being the second-oldest running back on the team at 33.
--WR Julian Edelman landed the role of replacing the injured Wes Welker on Sunday and finished with eight catches for 98 yards.
--S Sam Aiken had a poor showing in just his second game as the new special teams' captain, committing separate penalties on a kickoff and punt return for a total of 25 yards.
--RB Laurence Maroney continues to be upstaged in the running game, this time by the veteran Taylor. Maroney finished with only 23 yards on six carries, which is not enough for a player who was acquired to be the No. 1 back.
--LB Gary Guyton looked much sharper in his first full game replaced Jerod Mayo than he did last week when he was thrust into that role after Mayo got injured against the Bills. Guyton also held the responsibility of leading the defensive huddle, which is no small task.
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