Patriots

Curran's 42 lines on 21 Patriot issues

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Curran's 42 lines on 21 Patriot issues

By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.com Patriots Insider Follow @tomecurran
The receptions record Wes Welker tied on Sunday was set by Troy Brown on September 22, 2002. Brown caught 16 passes against Kansas City and might've had more but he was hurt on that final reception, which came with 7:27 left in the game.

Taylor Price? You're time is nigh.
Vince Wilfork beat feet out of the locker room Sunday. He and safety Sergio Brown were on their way out before the media even got in. Chad Ochocinco looked like his left shoulder was killing him as he put on his shirt after the game. He dismissed a question about whether it was injured. Ocho's egregious drop came with 8:18 left in the game. New England needed almost five more minutes to complete that drive and tie it with a fourth-down reception by Welker. In other words, the maddening final three minutes when the Patriots saw Buffalo go into a stall and kill their chance for one last possession? Trace it to Ocho. There comes a point where we all stop nodding and sympathizing about how incredibly hard it must be to process an NFL playbook and a sophisticated passing offense. That time came Sunday when Ocho needed a guide dog to get lined up on a few plays, rounded off his routes and dropped throws flag football receivers all over the USA were hauling in on Sunday morning. Last week was the first time Ochocinco got surly with the media. He said on Wednesday he wasn't talking because the media thinks it has all the answers. Randy Moss got docked 25K for refusing to talk to the media in Minnesota last year. It was the same thing he pulled in New England but we never made a big deal of it. Had this passing statistic up on last week's Quick Slants. On the list of single-season passing leaders, you have to go all the way to the 34th most prolific single-season passer to find a guy who won a Super Bowl throwing for stupid yards (Peyton Manning, 2006). Tom Brady is on pace to shatter the record set by Dan Marino in 1984 (5,084). Brady had thrown for 1,327 through three games and is on a pace to throw for 7,077 yards. The observation that the Patriots can't cover has been made repeatedly. We need to get to the why of it. Here are the reasons: 1) No pressure from four-man rush means that a man-to-man playing secondary is going to get roasted; 2) awful man-to-man technique from corners at the line of scrimmage; 3) the secondary plays scared. Bills receiver David Nelson was very good talking about the difficulties of playing man-to-man, which is something the Patriots have done more of this season. Read that stuff here. I'm on record as saying Wes Welker is brilliant at what he does but not unique -- slot receivers with similar skills exist. I now add this caveat: his physical and mental toughness, comeptitiveness and chemistry with Tom Brady do make him unique. What could Sergio Brown have done differently to avoid the end zone pass interference call that killed the Pats Sunday? Simply put his hands up and made Nelson fight through him to get back to the ball; hugging is never a solid option. The Patriots' linebackers have got to do a better job in coverage. Through three games, running backs have caught 29 passes for 276 yards on them. Nobody wants to hear about it but the absence of Myron Pryor, Mike Wright, Albert Haynesworth and Patrick Chung on Sunday was a big deal. No pressure in the middle of the defensive line; poor tackling at the back. Seeing Robert Kraft chatting with urban Meyer at the West Virginia-LSU game on Saturday brought to mind a murmur I heard a year or two ago. That when Bill Belichick's had enough of coaching, he'll move upstairs and Meyer will be his on-field successor. Richard Seymour figures to be highly motivated this week. First chance to meet up with the team that traded him back in 2009. My theory that the lockout would cause offenses to lag behind defenses in the early part of the season? Bad theory. Tom E. Curran can be reached at tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

Tom Brady on pace for huge numbers, so why is he down on his play of late?

Tom Brady on pace for huge numbers, so why is he down on his play of late?

FOXBORO -- Tom Brady is on pace for 5,224 yards passing in 2017, just a shade under his total from his career-high in 2011. He's on track to have 34 touchdowns and just five picks. Barring a continued run of ridiculous efficiency from Kansas City's Alex Smith, those numbers would be MVP-caliber in all likelihood.

But Brady's not thrilled with the way he's played of late. What gives? 

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In his past two games, he hasn't thrown the football as consistently as he would have liked. After starting the season with a 10-to-0 touchdown-to-interception ratio, he's 3-to-2 in the last couple of weeks. His accuracy has been at times pinpoint (as it was on his 42-yard completion to Brandin Cooks to help set up a Rob Gronkowski score against the Jets), but it has also been uncharacteristically erratic.

He was picked deep down the middle of the field by Buster Skrine last week, but the more concerning throw may have been the quick out-route to Gronkowski that Skrine dropped for what should have been an easy interception. Brady missed Phillip Dorsett on what looked like it could have been a long touchdown with Dorsett running free behind the defense. He threw behind Chris Hogan twice in the game, one of which opened up Hogan to a rib-shot that landed him on the injury report this week.

Against the Jets, Brady was not sacked and he was hit only four times -- a light day for him compared to other weeks this season when he's been battered. Yet he still completed just under 53 percent of his passes for 257 yards and a season-low 6.76 yards per attempt. 

"Well, I've got to hit the open . . . If the throws are there I've got to be able to make them," he said on Friday. "It's disappointing when I don't. To me, it just comes back to technique and fundamentals and making sure everything is working and that's the consistent daily thing that you're working on. I'm always working on my accuracy.

"I wish I hit them all. I'm capable of hitting them all and I need to be able to do that. I said last week that some of these games wouldn't be as close if I was playing better in the red area. I think some of those missed opportunities in the pass game with me hitting guys would really help our team. Hopefully, I can do a better job for this team."

Brady is no longer listed on the Patriots injury report, but he dealt with a left shoulder injury against both the Bucs and the Jets, and it's worth wondering if that somehow impacted how his passes traveled in those games. Balance is key in Brady's world, and even though he can make flat-footed throws look easy, perhaps an injury to his front side limited his ability to place the ball where he wanted. 

Keeping Brady upright could go a long way in helping the 40-year-old regain his form from Weeks 2-4 when he didn't dip below a 104 quarterback rating. Bill Belichick said earlier this week that part of the reason the Jets pass-rush wasn't quite as effective as others they'd faced this year was his team's ability to run the ball. Productive rushing attempts on first and second down mean manageable third downs, which mean shorter pass attempts. Those of course, in theory, lead to less time standing in the pocket and a healthier quarterback.

"It's great," Brady said of his team's recent surge running the football. "I mean, to be able to run the ball consistently in the NFL is important for every offense. It does take a lot of . . . I wouldn't say pressure, it's just production. If 400 yards of offense is what you're looking for and you can get 150 from your running game, the 250 has got to come in the passing game. If you're getting 50 yards in the rushing game then it means you've got to throw for more.

"I don't think it's pressure it's just overall you're going to get production in different areas and the backs are a big part of our offense and handing the ball off to them is an easy way for us to gain yards if we're all coordinated and doing the right thing. But those guys are running hard. The line is doing a great job up front finishing blocks and so forth."

Against the Falcons and their talented -- though underperforming -- offense this weekend, the running game could be key. First, it could help the Patriots defense by controlling possession and keeping Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman off the field. Next are the obvious advantages for the signal-caller who could use a stress-free day in the pocket to help him solve his recent accuracy issues. 

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