Strange times in New England. It may also be a sign of new times in New England.
The Patriots suffered a humiliating 41-14 loss on Monday Night Football in Kansas City and the reality is, if Tampa Bay hadn't been destroyed by Atlanta 56-12 in week three we would have been looking at the worst performance of the season. Had someone told you that prior to week one you would have laughed....a lot.
Nevertheless all of the Patriots performances through four weeks - particularly on offense - have been average at best and even know they sit at 2-2, they should be 4-0. Going into the season they would have fancied themselves against Miami, Minnesota, Oakland and Kansas City.
"I don't think we've played well for a long time"
Tom Brady has acknowledged that his offense has looked stale but says that it may be tough to get it going against the best defense in the league at the moment when they come up against a Cincinnati Bengals defense who have allowed a league low 11 points per game this season:
"There's no magic scheme," Brady told WEEI-FM on Wednesday morning. "It's up to the players to play a lot better than we're playing. This hasn't been an isolated incident. I don't think offensively we've played well all year. I don't think we've played well for a long time. We've gotta figure out the reason why we're not playing as well as we're capable and try to improve them."
Ever since Brady has been starter in New England people have expected near to perfection from him, and 99 times out of 100, he's delivered. But this year looks as though it could be different. Fair enough Brady doesn't have the best players to work with on offense, but there's no hiding the fact that he is looking less dynamic. That's to be expected as you get older - it's going to be a tough year for the Patriots.
Where teams used to almost roll over when they visited New England, they will come with a new found belief that they can upset Brady and his troops, much like Oakland nearly did in week three:
“I think you’ve got to have enough mental toughness to endure through all of the tough situations,” Brady said Wednesday morning on WEEI radio. “It tests your will, it tests your mental discipline and your work ethic. I think those are things that are going to be tested by us for the rest of the year. I don’t think it’s going to be easy to roll our helmets out there and expect to go out there and win games.”
When you have a receiver core that is far from one of the best around and a struggling Gronk, its never going to be easy for a quarterback, but in the past Brady has managed to get it done.
Throw in his increasing age and his woeful offensive line then you can feel a little sympathy for Brady. Four games in and his offensive line has allowed 55 total pressures (sacks, hits and hurries). That is two more than any other unit in the league, 25 more than the league average and a massive 45 worse than Cincinnati, the best unit in the NFL.
Only three QB's have averaged a lower 'time to throw' than Brady's 2.3 seconds and when he does hold the ball for more than 2.5 seconds he is completing just 40.5% of his passes - last in the NFL among qualifying passers.
Brady was benched in his sides loss to the Chiefs and Jimmy Garoppolo came in and looked useful - so useful that when he threw a touchdown pass, Brady didn't congratulate him.
However don't worry too much Tom, you will still be number one in New England and will probably remain to be until you decide otherwise!