Patriots

Schadenfreude helps ease the pain of Pats loss

885233.jpg

Schadenfreude helps ease the pain of Pats loss

Theres a certain type of medical treatment that fans in New England thrive on after a difficult Patriots loss. Unfortunately, the antidotes not readily available after every defeat. In fact, its been almost a year since it was even on the market.

But last night in Atlanta, it was re-released to the public to rave reviews. And while the packaging might look different, the name remains the same. Its simply called: Watching Peyton Manning throw interceptions.

Come on, admit it, seeing Peyton come back to Earth last night eased at least a little bit of your Patriots pain. As did watching the Jets get waxed by the Steelers on Sunday (although would have been nice if it wasnt the Steelers) and the Ravens choke down the stretch against the Eagles. Sure, none of that will help heal Aaron Hernandezs ankle, uncover the truth behind the Welker nonsense, teleport Brian Waters from his Texas ranch or give Gostkowski another chance from 42, but even in our darkest moments, NFL Schadenfreude serves as an undeniable source of happiness.

And the truth is, through two weeks, very few of the Pats AFC rivals have escaped early season hardship. As of today, there are only two undefeated teams remaining in the conference Houston and San Diego. Both have been dominant so far, with the Texans outscoring opponents by a combined 57-17 and the Chargers up 60-24 in their two contests. Then again, neither team has been challenged. Youd assume that more than a few teams would start 2-0 against the likes of Jacksonville, Miami, Tennessee and Oakland.

Then again, youd have assumed the same about a team that drew Tennessee and Arizona. Regardless of whom theyve played, Houston and San Diego have done the job and deservedly sit atop the early standings. Meanwhile, reality intervened with the Pats, leaving them at 1-1, in a horde among nine other AFC teams (including their three division foes and other presumed contenders like Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Denver). But whatever, its early. We know how much things will change over the next 15 weeks. We know that a 2-0 start guarantees nothing except no worse than a 2-14 finish. Take last year for example. After two weeks, the Bills, Jets and Redskins all stood at 2-0. They finished out the season a combined 11-31.

Starting today, we'll put Week 2 behind us the heartbreak against Arizona, the joy of watching the Jets, Raven and Broncos fall flat on their face and turn our attention to Sunday night in Baltimore, a match-up that will either bring New England a glorious natural high or send us into a depression that will make this week look like a breezy day at the beach. We can only hope for the best. But if the best isn't in the cards, here's hoping that vitamin Schadenfreude is still available in bulk.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

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? 

MORE PATRIOTS:

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. 

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE