by Chris Warner, Patriots Daily Staff
Wait one minute. Did the Patriots win on Sunday because of their defense, and not in spite of it? Did that 20-16 comeback actually happen, or did we imagine it to stay positive during the bye week?
Nope. It really occurred, putting an optimistic spin on much of our thoughts through this point in the season.
Just In The Nick Of Tom: Starting with 2:31 left, Tom Brady shook off a mediocre performance to complete eight of his nine passes for the game-winning touchdown drive. Everything from Wes Welker and Rob Gronkowski’s out routes to Aaron Hernandez’s end zone cross were met with pinpoint accuracy, something the Dallas defense had prevented throughout much of the previous 57:29.
Aaron It Out: We didn’t know what to expect from Hernandez when New England grabbed him in 2010’s fourth round. What a difference this guy makes. We’ll even take his open-up-the-safe-and-make-it-rain-cash touchdown celebration.
Chad On-the-brink-o: It’s worth repeating our analysis of Patriots receivers over the past several years – either they get the offense within weeks, or they never do. Chad Ochocinco got one pass thrown to him and seemed to turn the wrong way (Unless Brady made a mistake. As if!). With the Cowboys demonstrating how to defend the Pats (crush Welker whenever possible, help with the tight ends), New England needs a reliable third receiver who can beat simple man-to-man coverage. With every passing week, Ochocinco looks less and less like that guy.
Don’t be fooled by any upcoming success vs. Pittsburgh. Brady has consistent production against the Steelers, and the team will set Ochocinco up for success there with extra preparation. What he does after the Steelers game will say more about where he fits.
Anyway, enough about Ochocinco…
Taylor Suited? Okay, I lied: Shouldn’t Taylor Price get a shot to play? Wouldn’t he benefit more from the experience than Ochocinco at this point?
We can’t complain about this offense, but we can worry about its individual parts.
Around The Bend But Don’t Break: Has the New England defense figured it out? Have they turned the proverbial corner? Sure, they still have work to do, but holding Dallas to two field goals after some dicey turnovers impressed us. Solid run defense and an avoidance of allowing big plays made a difference.
Dallas coach Jason Garrett’s paralyzing fear of allowing QB Tony Romo to pass probably didn’t hurt, either. But we’ll focus on the positive.
To Err Is Human, To Forgive, D-line: The Patriots defensive front made up for some inconsistency elsewhere, pressuring Romo and stopping early rushing plays dead. It seems as though this veteran group is getting more comfortable with each other, staying in synch and plugging up gaps. Fun to watch when the defense accomplishes what it sets out to do.
What’s not as fun? Well…
Far From Devin: Is something wrong with cornerback Devin McCourty? In terms of his tackling, he’s missed more stops than an over-caffeinated bus driver. He seems to get caught looking into the backfield and freezing, resulting in having to catch up to the guy he’s supposed to be covering. An odd transition from the smooth, effortless appearance of last year’s rookie.
Let’s Talk About Six: As in, six weeks into the season, meaning some players are eligible to get onto the roster from the Player Unable to Perform (PUP) list. We’ll see what running back Kevin Faulk, defensive linemen Ron Brace and Brandon Deaderick, and guard Marcus Cannon can bring. Seems like the Pats may have gotten a little bit better over the bye week. More potential, anyway.
Enjoy the week off. The last 10 should be fun.
Chris Warner can be reached at email@example.com