Facing rookie quarterback on back-to-back games to kick off the 2013 NFL Season, Tom Brady and the New England Patriots are somehow at 2-0, mostly thanks to the weakness of their rivals than their own mediocre, at best, ability.
Wins in the NFL don’t get much uglier than this, especially for a team like the Patriots, who are used to being the quickest executioners on the block. They ended up beating the New York Jets 13-10, having their defense, intercepting Geno Smith three times and adding another fumble recovery to the mix, do most of the work.
The Patriots lost the yardage game, producing only 232 yards of offense (compared with 318 from the Jets), as they finished with more punts (11) than first downs (9). This is the first time they won a game like this during the Belichick era, and it was also a Belichick-era low for first downs.
Brady just doesn’t have anyone to throw to. No tight ends he can trust, he focused on Amendola, Vereen and Edelman in week 1. Now, he only has Edelman to count on, and 13 of his 19 completions went to the often-injured receiver, who finished with 78 yards on 13 catches. Brady targeted him 18 times during the game, looking for Edelman on almost every play as if his life depended on it.
The rest of the guys? Brady completed only six passes to other receivers, including one touchdown pass to Aaron Dobson to open the game and leave the Jets behind for good. He finished with 6-for-21 and 107 yards (of those, 77 coming on two plays, including the 36-yard touchdown pass to Dobson). Awful, ugly or whatever word you’d like to describe it is probably fitting here, as the Patriots simply couldn’t move the chains.
Running game? Stevan Ridley finished with 40 yards on 16 carries, as the myth of Brady and Belichick being able to make any group of receivers look good exploded. The Patriots escaped their game with the Bills, and wound up fighting and clawing for the win against an awful (offensively) Jets team, and those are the two easiest games they’ll all season. For a team used to cope with injuries, even to Tom Brady (2008), whatever they built this season seems to be a house of cards that can easily be toppled.
Geno Smith? You don’t expect anything else from rookie quarterbacks who play for a head coach that doesn’t know much about offense. Even the Patriots’ secondary can suddenly look like a bunch of All-Pros, as Smith threw three interception passes and didn’t enjoy the lucky break his team got from the Bucs on his NFL debut. It’s going to be a long season for the West Virginia alum, who doesn’t have Mark Sanchez to compete for the starting spot anymore.
A good word or two have to be given to the Patriots’ defense. They did allow 15 first downs for the Jets, who also ran for 129 yards, but they did get the stops they needed through forcing turnovers. Aqib Talib is a pro-bowl kind of talent when you get all of the nonsense out of the way, and he probably deserves more credit than anyone else for the win thanks to his two interceptions.
Things can only get better for the Patriots from here, but that can only happen if Brady gets some more targets he trusts. His offensive line is good enough to have him holding on to the ball more than he’s used to, but at some point, against better teams with better defenses, the fact that everyone knows who he’s looking for is going to start racking up losses for the Patriots, who need their young guys to start acting and playing like veterans as fast as possible.