Of all the problems with New England's offense through the first five games of the season, the most glaring weakness has easily been the lack of big plays.
Tom Brady's return to the lineup was supposed to bring back memories of 2007 when he and Randy Moss hooked up 20-plus times on touchdowns -- many of them on deep bombs down the field against helpless secondaries.
Brady and Moss have tried to hook up numerous times in 2009, but the connection has repeatedly failed. The frustration on both sides is evident; Brady has done more head-shaking and hand-slapping this year than he has in the past -- a clear sign that something is missing.
"You're right, we haven't hit them this year," Brady said. "Coach (Bill Belichick) hammered into us today we haven't had a pass over 40 yards yet this year in five games. It's something that I got to do a better job at. There is only one way to do it and that's to go out there and work on it, and you know ultimately we got to hit them.
"That's why you go out there and play quarterback. You got to go out there and complete the balls that are there, and when you have opportunities down the field, you don't get them often and you have to take advantage of them. We hit them in practice, but it's really a matter of how it comes down on game day and the level of execution. I've got to do a better job of hitting those deep ones."
The numbers are ugly: The Patriots are the only team in the NFL without either a rush of more than 20 yards or a pass greater than 40 yards (their longest run of the season is 19 yards and their longest pass play went for 36).
Likewise, they're one of only four teams without a pass play longer than 40 yards, putting them in awful company with the Jaguars, Browns and Panthers.
Sometimes it's hard to tell who's to blame when a big play goes awry, but Brady has always been the type to put most of the blame on his own shoulders. Still, some of the pie should be shared by not only Moss, but newcomer Joey Galloway, who has done nothing in five games.
At the end of the day, however, it comes down to Brady. Late in Sunday's loss at Denver, Brady completely missed Wes Welker on a potential big play over the middle for an incompletion on third down. Surprisingly, confidence isn't an issue.
"If you don't hit a pass you know you can't lose your confidence and say, 'Wow, I can't complete passes anymore,'" Brady said. "I think of it more like, 'Wow, the defense was pretty lucky there that I didn't complete it.' The confidence that you bring as a quarterback, a running back or a receiver to your teammates is what is very important. Always bringing that positive, confident attitude, no matter what is happening in the game, what's happened during the week or the previous week that's what makes good leaders."
The Patriots hope Brady's positive attitude rubs off on anyone else who is frustrated right now. More importantly, they're hoping he hits on a few of those big plays -- preferably this week against the winless Titans.
"You've got to be the one to ultimately go out there and perform better," he said. "Everyone counts on me to perform at a certain level. I count on them to do their job. When you're not doing it, it's very frustrating when you really feel in a way that you're letting your teammates down. You also have the resiliency to go back out there and give it your best."
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