Curran: Patriots offense hits its stride early

Curran: Patriots offense hits its stride early
November 28, 2011, 5:56 am
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PHILADELPHIA - You could set your watch to it. Four hours after kickoff, a disconsolate but well-appointed Tom Brady would face the media and lament opportunities missed. Sunday night, Brady still wasn't over the moon. But after a dissection of the Eagles defense, he was at least somewhat pleased. His head coach, rarely one to be too specific, explained that it was Brady that got the offense into surgical mode. "Tom did a good job of really pressing the issue," said Bill Belichick. "We felt like we had them on the run a little bit with some of the empty stuff and some of the matchups. We felt good about our running game, too, but just when we felt like we had some matchups we could take advantage of, Tom just kept pressing it. Everybody got involved and that's what Tom does best . . . find the open guy, put the ball on the money and he did it many times today."Brady is the NFL's version of Steve Nash. (Hey, basketball's back, let's embrace it!) He works matchups as well as any quarterback in the league and understands that you need to feed the heat. The heat on Sunday was Wes Welker, Aaron Hernandez, Deion Branch and Rob Gronkowski. That was it. No overthinking it. No trying to run ridiculous plays to Chad Ochocinco to try and make him feel a part of things. Just snap, read, throw. "Our guys were getting open," said Brady. "We've got some good quickness on the underneath part of the field and I thought we took advantage of some plays there. I thought we should have hit some other ones, though. But all and all it's a good win and as we do at this time of the year, we've got to move on."It's hard to think the offense is "cured" after a few weeks of sputtering starts when Brady willed the team forward after a switch to fast-break mode. But this week,the Patriots were solid early. It's something they've been striving to do for over a month. An over-reliance on Welker and Gronkowski was evident. Part of it was the knee injury to Aaron Hernandez. He came back way earlier than most players do from MCL injuries and his quickness wasn't back until Sunday, even though he told me he still felt slow on some plays. Part of it was the inability of Deion Branch to get apparent separation. Branch was still well-covered on some of his six receptions for 125 yards, but the offensive line gave Brady time enough to find Branch on restarts, like the 63-yarder he caught. The final part was the unwillingness to simply put the ball in the belly of BenJarvus Green-Ellis often enough even when there wasn't a lot there. On Sunday, BJGE carried 10 times for 42 yards in the opening quarter and that changed the Eagles defense as well. "I thought it was more balanced today," said Brady. "I thought we did a good job getting it to the wideouts, Wes and Deion both obviously had big days and then the tight ends made some plays, too. That's how it needs to be. You got to run it, you got to throw it to everybody and you gotta keep them off balance. You've got to screen, you've got to draw, you've got to trap, you've got to run downhill, you need quick hitters, you need all levels of the passing game. When they're able to take a few of those away, obviously it makes it more difficult to execute but I thought today we did a really good job of maximizing all the guys out there who are playing offense."And the Patriots went back to being a team that's difficult to defend not just because of a Hall of Fame quarterback, the best slot receiver in the league and the living, breathing mismatch that is Rob Gronkowski. They went back to being a team that makes you defend everything and everybody. And, as Sunday showed, most defenses can't.