logoby Scott Benson

Just in case the former Chad Johnson is on to something.  Buenos días, amigos!

The undeterred Patriots are already 2-0, and here in our little Mailbag of the Mind, the questions are piling up. I’ll take five – any more would require a re-branding.

Have we learned what “kind” of coach Bill Belichick is yet?

Oh, jeez, I don’t know….I mean, there’s so little data on which to arrive at a conclusion to this still-unresolved question, which has stymied New Englanders for almost nine years. I want to say Belichick is a good coach, what with the Hall of Fame game plan and the five rings, but I just don’t know yet. After all, how many championships has he won without Tom Brady, besides the two he won before? Answer: None, besides the two he won before!

You can’t tell anything from that. I remember thinking Bill Walsh was a pretty good coach until Joe Montana went down in 86, and Walsh had to roll Jeff Kemp and Mike Moroski out there under center. One and done in the playoffs. Pffft. Didn’t look like much of a genius then. But you know this already, since the media has long been saying Walsh owed his career to Joe Montana and Joe Montana alone. Anyway, the jury is still very much out on Belichick’s 34-year coaching career.

So….what’s Matt Cassel really like?

I like the way they shortened things up for him, and he responded with some authorative throws. It can’t be denied that they moved the ball (two drives of 70 yards apiece consumed nearly 11 of the games’s 60 minutes). He produced five scoring drives, and didn’t turn the ball over once. He handled screens of all varieties like a pro, and we know from experience that’s not a given. The intermediate stuff was not a factor, though I think we can expect he’ll grow into at least some of that as time goes along. To me, there’s two key indicators here – 1) that they’re able to get up the field a little more by the end of this month, involving Moss, Gaffney, Welker and darkhorse seam-threat Dave Thomas more in the intermediate areas of the passing game, and 2) that Cassel begins to finish off some of these drives. On Sunday, the Pats made four trips inside the Jets 10 and came away with only one touchdown. My biggest fear is that finishing is an innate skill, and not a learned one.

Have things changed in Miami?

We better hope so. In the six years since the NFL went to four, four-team divisions, the Patriots are 29-8 in games (regular season and playoffs) played against their AFC East rivals. Four of those eight losses came courtesy of Miami. Whatever the public perception of them has been of late, Miami has always seemed to be able to take at least one game from the Pats. They’ve only failed to do so in only two of the last six campaigns.

So we hope that much has changed, anyway.

Can the Patriots muster the same sense of urgency this week, as 11 point favorites at home, as they did last week as road underdogs coming off the loss of their best player?

As the final seconds ticked off the clock last Sunday, it was clear from the smiles on the faces of the Patriots players and coaches that they had made a particularly emotional investment in their previous week’s preparations. I wonder now if they can do the same for their next game, one that has less than half the motivations that their last one did.

True, it was their professionalism, their commitment to Do Your Job, that enabled them to respond to last week’s challenge, so perhaps they’ll be so focused on all the things they have to do to improve as a potential playoff team that they won’t notice their opponent has gone 1-20 since beating them in December of 2006.

Do we have to start this Laurence Maroney stuff all over again?

I thought the guy proved himself down the stretch last year, despite getting nowhere with the Giants in two tries (he was in good company). Yeah, Maroney was horrific on Sunday, running like a man encased in hardening plaster, but he’s had eighteen carries in two games. Half the time he gets the ball, it’s on that godawful first down play that develops like a Polaroid Land Camera and always seems to come with at least one defensive linemen four yards deep in the backfield. Isn’t there another play they can call for this guy?

Bonus question: Is a Brady-less Randy Moss a ticking time bomb?

Apparently, you got 4 hours of radio time to fill (actually, about 38 minutes after commercials), you fill it anyway you can.