Well despite a really rocky start the Patriots have come on in leaps and bounds in game three (vs the Falcons) and game four (vs the Ravens) those last two games were what I would chose to define as quality wins. The NFL is a close league and when two teams play the outcome is usually decided quite literally by one or two plays either way, as Patriots fans over the last eight years we have had our share of those plays go our way, that is not a coincidence.
Pass Offense B
What before the season looked like an embarassment of riches has turned out to be fools gold. The accuracy of Tom Brady was a long way away from what we are used too. Finally against the Ravens he looked to be getting back to the Tom Brady we all know. Joey Galloway has flat out stunk the place up, many, including me had high expectations for this guy as a perfect foil playing opposite Randy Moss, that has not been the case. Clearly Galloway has not picked up the playbook as expected, that in turn in my opinion has led to a major confidence spike (sadly downwards) to the point where the Patriots did not even dress him for the Ravens contest. Maybe he will get another shot soon but I have a feeling Joey could be on his out of the door.
The loss of Wes Welker through the Jets and Falcons game was a major blow to the offense, Welker is the glue that holds this pass happy offense together Brady missed his outlet guy badly. Randy Moss has been excellent, I am not buying the garbage about him taking plays off, before the Ravens game he led the league in receptions (26). Julian Edelman looks to be a major find for the team.
We need another receiver, maybe Terrence Nunn will be activated from the practice squad or maybe Brandon Tate comes off the PUP list. The offensive line has been patchy in its protection of Brady but generally has done a very good job, it needs to be more consistent.
Finally there is Brady himself, you can see a game to game to game improvement from him and I have no doubt he will get better as the season progresses.
Rush Offense C+
Disappointing to say the least. First, in defense of the backs the offensive line has been poor in opening up lanes, very poor and this is a major concern to me after four weeks, it simply must improve as the weather gets colder and the team need to run the ball more effectively.
Secondly I do NOT like the committee approach, it fails to allow any back to get into a rhythm. Fred Taylor looked good in one game, Sammy Morris has had his moments, Kevin Faulk is Kevin Faulk and Laurence Maroney is getting all the grief people can give him. I make no apology for being a fan of Maroney, get him through the first level and he is deadly, sadly that has not occured. Watching the Ravens game today it was sad to see him jeered when he got strung out going wide, later Sammy Morris did the same thing and the crowd did not get on him. I think many are frustrated with him and I believe he must be too, on a screen pass that was called back he showed his explosive power but the stat book will not show it.
Interesting that some of the best Patriots runs have come when they employ a lead blocker, Maroney has not had that and indeed the rest of the backs should have it more. A BIG improvement is needed in this department. I don't care for the calls for BenJarvus Green-Ellis he is on the bench for a reason, his turn will come and it will be in case of injury or next season.
Pass Defense B
Much better than expected. Leigh Bodden is proving to be a very good pick up Shawn Springs is getting better every week. Brandon Meriweather, well he is playing lights out, a great game today against the Ravens, he has really come on this season and is starting to look like a good first round pick, he certainly bailed James Sanders out AGAIN today when yet again he was caught out of position.
Brandon McGowan has been as awesome pick up too and deserves to be starting. Terrence Wheatley is a major let down so far for a second round pick and did not even make the game day roster. Jonathan Willhite is going to be a better pick that Wheatley and I think he will be starting along with Bodden most games. Darius Butler has been up and down but has made some good plays, I think his future is very bright.
Finally this week we got some pressure up front, it shows the confidence the coaching staff now have in the secondary because at times against the Ravens we blitzed six players. This defense is starting to look like a real defense, although it is very typically a bend but don't break variety. I still get frustrated seeing our corners line up ten yards off the line of scrimmage!
The defense much like its counterpart offense is getting better week to week and that has to be a good think for the team and its fans.
Run Defense B+
Number one rule in the NFL an dindeed in Bill Belichick's coaching manual.... stop the run! So far with a few notable exceptions (Ray Rice 50 yard run today) the team have defended the run very well. It was great to see the injury to Vince Wilfork was not serious, he is such a great presence on the line of scrimmage.
The loss of Richard Seymour was a major blow but to be very honest so far at least I don't think we have missed him that much. Mike Wright and Jarvis Green have filled in extremely well. If there is any disappointment on defensive line it has been the non gameday appearance of Ron Brace, clearly to me he is a player for the future and not this season. When you can sign a guy off the street (Terdell Sands) and he gets dressed ahead of a second round pick you have to be disappointed.
Myron Pryor looks to be a decent back up too and will be worth keeping an eye on as the season develops. Gary Guyton has done a great job and against the Ravens he mirrored the Patriots team, IE he is getting better each and every game he plays, he was always around the ball today. With the return of Jerod Mayo imminent this defense should get better and better.
Special Teams C
I would like to exclude Stephen Gostkowski from this, he has been very reliable on all aspects of the kicking game in which he is involved. The rest of the teams performance leaves a lot to be desired.
The kick coverage on both punts and kick offs is lamentable, the only thing that saves this from a D grade is the fact the team have recovered two fumbles on kick offs, they are the only highlights of this area of the game for the Patriots. The return game has been a let down, Maroney had a few nice returns but it seems we are opting for safety first appraoch in this area of the game, I don't like that at all. If Ellis Hobbs has been missed its on kick offs!
Bill Belichick is one of the best to ever coach the game, time and time again when players go down, leave or don't perform he finds a away to get the job done. Considering the turnover his coaching staff has had in the last 4 years its remarkable that the next guy is ready to go. That people is why you teach the guy underneath you your job because one day he is going to get your job.
The team is where it wants to be, 3-1 is a great start all things considered. Th loss to the Jets has nasty tie breaking implications down the road but the team has their fate in their own hands. Next week it will again be the master and the pupil as the Patriots visit the Broncos and Josh McDaniels and although Denver is 4-0 I have make the Patriots strong favourites to go 4-1. The thing I like to see so far is that each and every week we are seeing improvements, in the past I have always felt as a team we have peaked too early, this season I have a feeling things are coming together, but football is a fickle game and things can turn in a heartbneat, look at the Titans 13-3 last season 0-4 this.
Lets hope we can remain injury free and keep on playing Patriots football, if we can do that we can make the post season action!