by Chris Warner, Patriots Daily Staff

“I’ll take it.”

That’s what Coach Belichick might be thinking after his squad overcame a half-hearted first-half effort to pull away from Carolina, 20-10. This one looked bad from all kinds of angles, many of which are spelled out below.

faulkLet’s begin with something positive and work our way down from there…

Go Wes, Young Brady: We should pause for a moment to appreciate how well Wes Welker is doing this season. Ready?

There. Feels pretty good, doesn’t it?

The mighty mite added 10 more catches for 105 yards vs. the Panthers. On a day when both Randy Moss and Julian Edelman let passes slip through their hands while Receiver No. 3 Sam Aiken sat with an injury, quarterback Tom Brady sought out Welker. Half of his receptions came on New England’s 13-play, 96-yard touchdown drive in the third quarter that gave the home team a 14-7 lead.

Now, with that out of the way, here comes the complaint section.

Not-So-Many Happy Returns: Can we get Welker off of punt return duties, please? The guy risks getting his head taken off almost every time he catches the ball. Can we get him out of harm’s way for four or five plays a game? Apparently, a full-time returner is about as hard to find this year as the 1972 Dolphins. (By the way, where the hell are those guys? It’s as if someone clued them in that openly rooting against a team closing in on your record looks like bad form.)

There Is A Season (Turn, Turn, Turnover): Two fumbles, one interception. Lame.

Please Do NOT Play It Again, Sammy: Fourth and  short in the first quarter, Coach Belichick decides to go for it in Carolina territory. Okay. No problem. Now, the little give-to-Sammy-Morris-up-the-middle play? Problem. We liked the call vs. Atlanta several weeks ago, but that play has gotten as predictable as Death Valley weather. It wasn’t an accident that three Panthers got to the spot before Morris did.

With Two Boys Of His Own: Here’s the story of a man named Brady. He hasn’t played like the guy we expected (19 for 32, 192 yards, one TD, one INT Sunday). Maybe Moss can take the blame for failing to run the route on Brady’s interception, but the QB still managed to overthrow open receivers and miss his running backs in the flat. If his injuries are bothering him that much, let’s hope this week gives him time to recover.

Springs Into Action: Hey, welcome back, cornerback Shawn Springs. Sort of wish you’d made a play on that 41-yard TD pass to Steve Smith, there.

Moore Is Less: Backup QB Matt Moore had a poor game (15 of 30, 197 yards, 1 TD), yet managed to expose the mediocre play of the New England secondary. Moore should have been intercepted four different times as his passes seemed to bounce off of Patriots defenders’ hands (or slip through, as was the case with Leigh Bodden late in the first half). Worse, though, was the availability of open receivers that Moore consistently missed.

You know what? The Pats won, so let’s end on a high note. A couple, actually.

Catching On To Sea Bass: It may have taken an injury to right tackle Nick Kaczur to solidify his playing time, but Sebastian Vollmer should start the rest of the season. The Panthers had zero sacks (pass-rusher Julius Peppers was credited with zero stops) and Vollmer had a lot to do with that. He’s the best tackle and probably the best offensive lineman on the team right now.

Good Timing, Big Ben: Pats fans had been begging for more tight end involvement in the  offense, and they got it. Benjamin Watson caught three passes for 37 yards, including a five-yard TD that capped off New England’s 96-yard drive in the third. Watson and Chris Baker also blocked well, helping pave the way for Laurence Maroney’s strong rushing performance (22 attempts, 94 yards).

Next week, New England travels to Buffalo. Let’s see if they can keep it going.

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