Brady, offense show signs of hope in win

Brady, offense show signs of hope in win
September 22, 2013, 11:30 pm
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FOXBORO – In the Patriots first two games, rookie punter Ryan Allen was called on 17 times.
His predecessor, Zoltan Mesko, didn’t hit his 17th punt until October in his three seasons with the Patriots.
Sunday began as another busy day for Allen. Three punts in the first quarter as the Patriots offense picked up where it left off against the Jets. Going nowhere fast.
And then, it clicked. Not completely. Not for good. But a little bit.
After the first quarter Sunday, the Patriots had drives that were 11, 10, 8, 8, 10 and 10 plays long. They also had a pair of three-play drives – the first one culminating in a half-ending field goal, the other being three Tom Brady kneeldowns. Allen was suddenly as useful to the Patriots as a typewriter salesman.
The Patriots didn’t light it up on Sunday against the Bucs. You can imagine Tom Brady walking in the front door, being asked by Giselle how his day went and answering with a perfunctory, “Fine.” But the improvement anticipated was realized.
Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels simplified things (back-shoulder routes were mostly shelved, simple crossing routes were employed) and the Patriots offense looked more Patriotic.
Kenbrell Thompkins caught three of the seven balls thrown his way – two for touchdowns. Aaron Dobson caught seven of the 10 balls he was thrown. Julian Edelman caught all seven thrown his way. And the backs and tight ends got looks from Brady this time (11 balls directed at them).
It added up to a 25 for 36 day for Brady and a lot less angst.

“I thought the guys did a great job – we had a good week of practice and I think it ultimately showed up,” Brady opined. “(The rookie receivers have) been playing well. I think we just got good production from the tight end spot, the running back spot. It’s nice that the burden doesn’t have to fall on one position. We got a great job in the running game against one of the best run defenses in the league. 160 yards rushing against the number one rated rush defense in the league last year is pretty impressive.”

Everybody still needs tweaking, Brady included. In the third quarter, he missed Dobson in the end zone all alone when forced to hurry a throw, he had a slip-screen to Thompkins get tipped and redirect incomplete. And he threw a pick in the end zone on a pass intended for Dobson that had no prayer of getting through. He also missed Zach Sudfeld on a deep route (Thompkins was all alone behind the defense on the same play).

“I could play better,” Brady acknowledged. “I certainly could play better. The interception will bother me for the rest of the week until I get a chance to get out there again. And the missed touchdown pass, that was terrible. I expect to make those plays.”

The Bucs expected him to.

“He’s a great quarterback,” said Tampa linebacker LaVonte David. “We were getting guys in his face, but sometimes he was able to make completions. With a great quarterback like that, there’s really not a lot you can do.”

The fact that McDaniels worked to make the offense more user-friendly cannot be emphasized enough. Praise from all corners of the locker room for the efforts of the Patriots young receivers has been constant. But they had too much heat on them. New England adjusted. And when they sputtered on their first three drives, they adjusted some more with short crossing routes.

“We did a better job on the drive starts,” said Brady. (Tampa) has done a great job last year and through the preseason of getting teams into third-and-long. They do a great job with their run defense to get you in second-and-10s, second-and-10-plus, which forces you into third-and-long  … We definitely made some adjustments of routes that we thought would be better against what they were playing. And then we ended up making the plays. It's one thing to make the adjustments and say ‘Look, this is going to give us a better chance,’ and we did end up doing a better job and guys made a lot of really good catches out there, good catch-and-run plays like the touchdown. We had a bunch of third-down plays with guys crossing the field so that was important.”

Important on Sunday. Important going forward to the meat of the first-half schedule beginning next week in Atlanta.

“We’re trying to keep elevating and improving every week,” said Dobson. “We’re not trying to back track. We’re trying to keep the level up and move forward.”

Dobson was one of the recipients of Brady’s bile against the Jets. Sunday, he responded.

“You just have to learn from it,” Dobson said of the heat Brady put on him. “It’s going to happen. Mistakes are going to happen but you just have to learn from it, learn from the mistakes this week, and then go back out and do it right.”

The need to do it right in Atlanta against a team that will score more than three points is obvious.

So is the progress the offense made.

“They are young,” Tampa corner Leonard Johnson said of the Patriots wideouts. “But any time you have players here on this stage they are here for a reason. They showed up big today. They made a lot of good catches to put them in position where they were set up to score. My hat goes off to them.”