by Chris Warner, Patriots Daily Staff

We won’t waste a lot of time here. New England usually excels later in the season (even going 4-0 in December 2008), but for reasons yet to be explained this team has not only failed to improve, in many regards they have gotten worse.

After the 22-21 loss in Miami, some quick hits on our bottom-five list…

The Offense: Seven points in the second half. Anyone who harbored dreams of a repeat of 2007’s offensive output, you can pick up your reality checks down in receiving (we’re not being sarcastic when we say good call, Chad Finn). This offense has shown about as much inclination to put away Dolphins, Colts and Broncos as your local chapter of PETA.

The Defensive Backs: In a season with more painful endings than a weekend’s worth of Hamlet, New England’s secondary has indeed been a tragedy. This group gives up completions all over the field, usually in the last two minutes of the half. The missed tackles don’t help much, either. They seem to have some talent, somewhere, but they fail to make a play.

The play’s the thing, right?

Pass rush: If your response to that subheading is, “What pass rush?” then we share the same thought. The Pats traded for former Raider Derrick Burgess.  Considering the swap involved more than half a ham sandwich and a used drinking straw, they got bamboozled. Burgess had one tackle in Miami. He’s had two sacks all year, only one of which had significance (vs. Buffalo, the other against Tampa in garbage time).

Tom Brady: Red zone interception. That would have been enough to make the list. But Brady has been off for most of the season. Even on his best statistical play of the day, an 81-yard TD pass to Sam Aiken, Brady hung the ball in the air. Only a superior effort by Aiken prevented Sean Smith from intercepting that pass.

You know, a while ago my wife said, “I hope Gisele’s pregnancy won’t be a distraction for Tom.” I had two reactions: one, I thought it was funny that my wife discussed them on a first-name basis; and two, I told her (and myself) that Brady would be fine. At this point, I almost hope he is distracted, because at least that would explain why he hasn’t been himself.

Fourth Down: Hey, Bill Belichick? Just kick it. Just kick the damn football. We all understand the need for points, and we certainly get the lack of confidence in your defense, but at some juncture you’re going to have to allow your players to win or lose the game themselves, not on a one-shot decision. Had you kicked that field goal, you would have ended up with 24 points, which might have been enough to win (or at least get you to overtime).

So, players, coaches and the AFL uniform albatross, all of you get out on that field and give us our lap (Aiken and Wes Welker, you can get some water if you’d like). While you’re at it, try to figure out how to win next week.

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