Two weeks into the season the New England Patriots offense is clearly not trending in the right direction.
Everyone knew things might be a bit bumpy for the normally high-powered New England passing attack early on in what’s clearly a transitional year. Dating back to July, Tom Brady has consistently called his aerial unit — which includes three rookies at receiver — a “work in progress.”
The problem is that despite all the work put in with newcomers Kenbrell Thompkins, Aaron Dobson and Josh Boyce this summer — with solid results on the practice field and during the preseason — there just hasn’t been much progress to show for it through the first two regular-season games.
Week 1 was a 23-21 win on a field goal with just five seconds to play in Buffalo. Four days later at Gillette Stadium on Thursday was a 13-10 slop-fest victory over the Jets.
The standings show that Bill Belichick’s team is in its usual spot atop the AFC East with a perfect start to the season.
Reality is that it has been anything but perfect.
With Danny Amendola missing time with a groin injury and third-down back Shane Vereen now on injured reserve with a designation to return, the new-look Patriots passing attack is sputtering out of the gates.
“We just obviously have a lot of room for improvement,” Brady said. “We need to try to get back to work and see if we can do better next week.
“We have a long way to go. No one’s coming to rescue and save the day, so we’ve just got to fight through it and have got to work harder and do better and try to be more consistent. Hopefully we can score more points.”
Despite saying a number of times this summer that he has to be patient with the new receivers, Brady has let his frustrations boil over on the field in each of the first two weeks. Everyone watching knows the former MVP is far from happy with what’s going on with his offense.
And Brady admits, those on-field and sideline outbursts are anything but productive for everyone involved.
“I think I have to do a better job with my body language,” Brady admitted. “I definitely can improve that. I wouldn’t say it’s a real strong point of mine right now. We’ll just try to keep doing better. That’s what we’ve got to do.”
If that happens, everyone in New England will be a bit happier. And the Patriots offense might actually start to resemble the one that has pretty much dominated the league for more than half of the last decade.
Of course in a 16-game season, there can only be so much patience.
“This is the NFL. You can’t be too patient for too long,” Pro Bowl Patriots guard Logan Mankins said. “You have to produce. You can’t wait forever.”
Brady notched passer ratings below 80 in each of the wins. He completed fewer than 50 percent of his passes against New York, the first time that has happened since December 2009 and the first time at home since the 2006 season opener against Buffalo.
A unit that averaged 427 yards a game last fall had 232 against the Jets. Through two games, New England has 35 first downs, same as it had in single win over the Broncos last October. A team that scored 30 or more points 10 times in 2012 while leading the league in scoring has totaled 36 in two too-close-for-comfort wins against inferior opponents.
The bulk of the struggles can be attributed to the dismal passing attack and the inability of the rookie receivers to be much of a factor.
Thompkins has been targeted 21 times in two games, but has a mere six receptions for 89 yards. Dobson made his debut against New York after sitting out the opener with a hamstring injury. He caught a 39-yard touchdown on his first career reception, but dropped the ball basically the rest of the night to finish with three catches on 10 targets.
— Bill Belichick’s contract was a topic of discussion on NFL Network’s pregame coverage of Thursday night’s Patriots game. The last reported extension Belichick received has been said to run through the 2013 season. NFL Network reported this week that Belichick’s contract no longer is set to expire after this year, and “he’s not going anywhere.”
Asked about his contract, which has always been kept quite quiet between he and Patriots owner Robert Kraft, Belichick had little to say.
“I don’t talk about my personal contract situation. Sorry,” he said.
— CB Aqib Talib was tackled low and out of bounds following his game-clinching second interception against the Jets. That led to a large fight on the Patriots sideline that included two Jets — Willie Colon and D’Brickashaw Ferguson — being ejected.
“They took a cheap shot. It was on the wrong sideline to do that. So we were standing up for our guy,” guard Logan Mankins said.
— FS Devin McCourty has been a part of a New England defense that has held the opposition to just 31 points in two games to open the season, an effort that has been necessary for the Patriots to open the year at 2-0. Beyond simply escaping to win the two games, McCourty believes that having to battle to the end to get that job done is something that will pay off for his team in the long run.
“I think that’s good for us,” McCourty said. “We have some young players. We have some guys who haven’t been here on this particular team. I think we’re jelling. We’re becoming one. These games really help you do that when you have to stay together and.