Despite win, Brady not pleased

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Despite win, Brady not pleased

FOXBORO -- Something's bugging Brady.

In the wake of a 34-3 Patriots win, the source of his angst might not be obvious. But rewind farther, back to when New England entered the break up just 10-3 on the reeling Chiefs, and you'll find it.

"Obviously the first half we didn't do anything," he said after the game. "I don't think it could have gotten much worse than what we did in the first half. But I thought we came out strong in the second half and took control in the third quarter. It's good to get a win at home after the loss to the Giants in their last home game."

He never smiled in reflection of how "good" a win it was.

Brady completed 8 of 16 passes for 133 yards and a touchdown through two quarters. His first drive of the game went three-and-out. The next showed improvement -- five plays before the punt. Brady's third drive ended when he fumbled after a sack.

"Execution," he lamented. "We just sucked in the first. If you can't complete a pass, you're not going to move the ball. Can't run it, can't complete a pass -- we just didn't do anything."

He's not exaggerating.

Gaps closed on BenJarvus Green-Ellis before he could even look for them. The offensive line not only struggled to create space for the backs, it also couldn't give time to Brady; he was sacked three times on the night. The number isn't great, but zoom out and it's downright ugly.

Brady has been sacked 19 times in 10 games. In 2010, he was taken down 25 times in the entire season. The year before it was 16.

Keeping the quarterback upright is not the problem, but it is a problem. The pressure encourages New England's slow, sputtering offensive starts -- a consistent trend now for the Patriots. Look at the game log: Three-and-out to start against the Jets last week, 20 total points scored in the loss to the Giants, 19 against Pittsburgh in that loss, the 20-16 win against Dallas was pulled off in the final minutes.

No rhythm.

While an uphill battle isn't overwhelming against an AFC West bottomfeeder like Kansas City, it couldn't be won against Pittsburgh's stifling defense (three sacks of Brady). Is the Patriots QB looking beyond the regular-season schedule? Probably not. But, at this point, winning the games they're supposed to isn't going to satisfy him.

The Patriots haven't won a playoff game since 2007. Brady wants that streak snapped and he needs the offense to improve before the Patriots are faced with it.

"We're going to need to play better than we did offensively tonight if we want to start making some serious improvements down the stretch," he said. "We're 7-3. I don't think we're really where we hoped to be at this point."

Sometimes, the win's not the only thing.

Will the Harris signing mean more time on the edge for Hightower?

Will the Harris signing mean more time on the edge for Hightower?

David Harris is expected to be a savvy middle linebacker who will line up his teammates when they help. He's expected to provide some level of leadership, even in his first year in New England, as an accomplished-but-hungry 33-year-old who has not yet reached a Super Bowl. 

What Harris is not expected to do is improve the Patriots pass-rush. He was in on one sack in 900 snaps last season.  

But in a roundabout way he might. 

MORE: How does Derek Carr's new deal impact Jimmy Garoppolo?

There are dominos to fall now that Harris has been added to Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia's defense. How much will Harris play, and whose playing time will he cut into? Those questions don't yet have answers, but one of the more intriguing elements of the Harris acquisition is how he will benefit Dont'a Hightower's game.

If Harris can pick up the Patriots defense quickly -- and all indications are that there should be few issues there -- he could take some of the all-important communication responsibilities off of Hightower's shoulders. 

Ever since taking the reins from Jerod Mayo as the team's signal-caller, Hightower has had to be on top of all requisite pre-snap checks and last-second alignment changes. It's a critical role, and one that Hightower performs well, but those duties place some added stress on the player wearing the green dot. Perhaps if part of that load can be heaped onto Harris' plate, that might allow Hightower to feel as though he's been freed up to focus on his individual assignments.

Harris' presence might also impact where on the field Hightower is used. Hightower may be the most versatile piece on a Patriots defense loaded with them, but with Harris in the middle, Hightower could end up playing more on the edge, where he's proven he can make a major impact (see: Super Bowl LI).

For Belichick and his staff, having the ability to use one of their best pass-rushers -- and one of the most efficient rushers league-wide, per Pro Football Focus -- on the edge more frequently has to be an enticing byproduct of the move to sign Harris. Especially since there are some question marks among the team's end-of-the-line defenders behind Trey Flowers and Rob Ninkovich. 

We'll have to wait for training camp before we have an idea of how exactly Harris fits in with the Patriots defense. But the effect he'll have on his new teammates, and Hightower in particular, will be fascinating to track.