Patriots

Patriots: That wasn't us in Pittsburgh

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Patriots: That wasn't us in Pittsburgh

FOXBORO -- What you saw on Sunday in Pittsburgh, that wasn't the New England Patriots defense.

At least, that's what safety James Ihedigbo believes after watching the game film on Monday at Gillette Stadium.

"You watch that tape, and it's nothing that we want to represent us, as a defense, in this league or as a team," said Ihedigbo. "We watched that, and everyone had that look on their face, as you know, 'Hey, this isn't us. What we put on tape isn't us.' And we're going to correct that, and come out this next week, and show how the New England Patriots play defense."

The Pats hope they play defense with better communication in the secondary, something that plagued them against the Steelers.

As they get deeper into the season, the Patriots believe that communication will only improve.

"It's just going to get better," said safety Patrick Chung on Monday. "Some miscommunication, but it only gets better with guys coming in and starting to play more with the guys that are in there. It's just going to get better as the weeks go on."

As for the team's red zone defense, allowing only two touchdowns on five Pittsburgh red-zone possessions on Sunday wasn't something to hang their head over. But even that can improve.

"Sometimes you've got to hold them to zero points," said Chung.

And sometimes, you have to take what happened on a particular Sunday, and use it as motivation for the next weekend. After watching film on Monday, the Patriots' defense seemed dead set on doing just that.

"I've never been around a group of guys that want to win more than the group of guys in this locker room," said Ihedigbo. "And winning is everything. We work too hard during the week and we watch too much tape and we study too much as a group to come up on the short end of a week that we put so much effort into preparations.

"We're definitely going to have a chip on our shoulder this week," added Ihedigbo. "And I know, our defense, we're going to be fired up, we're going to be ready to go, we're playing back at home. We're going to study the game plan hard, and we're going to be ready to go on Sunday."

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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