Have the offseason changes negatively affected the Patriots locker room?

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Have the offseason changes negatively affected the Patriots locker room?

The Patriots improve their record to 4-2 with a win over the Jets, but there are still a lot of concerning factors for New England. Mike Giardi and Dan Koppen talk about something the team isn't used to - close games.

Giardi also dives into whether there is a major problem with the locker room dynamic, and whether all the moves they made in the offseason were blown way out of proportion by the media and fans of the talent added, but didn't factor in the personalities they lost.

Koppen and Giardi also look at how the offensive line play has fallen off, despite the same personnel as last year. Finally, discussing the late scratch of Stephon Gilmore due to a concussion. Anything to read into the timing?

Brady reaches out to Rodgers after hearing of injury

Brady reaches out to Rodgers after hearing of injury

Tom Brady hadn't heard the news by the time he stepped to the MetLife podium late Sunday afternoon. When he was told that Aaron Rodgers suffered a broken clavicle, Brady was dismayed. "That sucks," he said.

Brady has explained many times that he holds Rodgers in high regard and that the two have a friendship that extends off the field. Recently, Rodgers told reporters that he's been getting nutrition tips from his "buddy" Brady. Soon after Brady heard about Rodgers' injury, he reached out.

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"I did. I sent him a message, an e-mail. It’s bad news. It sucks,” Brady told WEEI's Kirk and Callahan show. "You’re seeing a lot of guys that happen to –– JJ Watt, Whitney Mercilus. So many players. Guys on our own team. Julian [Edelman], obviously, is going through it. I don’t know what obviously the prognosis for [Rodgers], but it looked pretty major. It’s tough. You never know which play."

Rodgers was driven into the turf by a Vikings defender on Sunday, landing hard on his right shoulder. It was a nearly identical play to the one that knocked Jimmy Garoppolo from action early last season. Jameis Winston took a similar hit on Sunday that knocked him from Tampa Bay's matchup with Arizona. 

Those kinds of shots are at the top of the list of the types Brady is trying to avoid.

"If I can contort my body in a certain way, I try to," he told WEEI. "I did in my second year have surgery after the season on one of my shoulder joints just from landing on it. It was a cold field, last game of the year. I wound up having surgery on it . . . That’s one spot where you can’t avoid to have any injury. But sometimes it comes up, it’s tough to avoid, and that’s the luck of football. Sometimes you’re lucky, sometimes you’re not. For a quarterback at least, landing on your right shoulder, there’s probably no worse place to land."

Brady said there was a point in time when he might've taken for granted the fact that he'd show up every Sunday (or Monday, or Thursday) and run out onto the field for another start. Hearing about injuries like the one Rodgers endured -- and going through a season-ending injury himself -- has changed that.

“I missed 2008," Brady said, "and that was a real eye-opener because I went many seasons without being out of a game, and I thought, ‘Oh, no. This is the way it goes.' Then you finally miss a year, and you’re like, ‘Oh my God.’ It’s torture to sit there and watch. I’m as proactive as I can be in keeping . . . all of my muscles healthy and working efficiently, trying to help absorb all those forces as best I can. Finishing the sixth game, I feel pretty darn good.”

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Patriots win, but aren't satisfied with 'all’s well that ends well' victories

Patriots win, but aren't satisfied with 'all’s well that ends well' victories

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The turning point in Sunday’s game wasn’t the Jets much-discussed overturned touchdown in the fourth quarter.

It came just before and right after the half when Malcolm Butler picked off Josh McCown with 40 seconds left, Tom Brady hit Brandin Cooks with a 42-yard cloudscraper and the Patriots punched it in then tacked on another touchdown after the break. A 14-7 deficit threatening to balloon had flipped to a 21-14 lead.

Asked about that in his postgame press conference, Bill Belichick offered an answer that serves as a microcosm for the Patriots through their first six games.

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“We didn’t really handle the end of the half the way we wanted to handle it,” he said. “We got down there with a minute-and-a-half and then threw three incomplete passes and missed a field goal. We were fortunate to get the ball back and able to capitalize on that opportunity. Cooks made a great catch for us down the field. It turned out alright, we scored before the half, but that’s not really the way we were trying to handle the whole situation.”

“All’s well that ends well” isn’t really what the Patriots 16-season run of success has been about, and that’s why this win – like most of the rest – comes with caveats and yeah buts.

“I wish we would have done better but we won so … there is probably a lot to learn from it,” said Brady. “I wish we could have played a little bit better offensively.

“We just didn’t execute as well as we needed to,” he added. “I think that’s probably the big thing. Just execution. We’ll keep at it. It’s only the sixth game of the year so there’s still a lot to figure out and we’ll just keep going out to practice and try to do better.”

The palate-cleansing 10-day layoff after a scrappy, short-week win on the road over Tampa was spoiled early on Sunday. The Jets converted five of their first six third downs on an 88-yard drive then went ahead 14-0 after the Patriots fumbled on their second drive.

After that, the defense settled in for a stretch as the offense slowly got its footing and erased the deficit. There were positives in the mix. Brady was much more well-protected than he’s been (no sacks, four quarterback hits) and the running game was as effective as it’s been all year. But the little inefficiencies for a team that’s long been so efficient nagged like a pebble in the shoe.

“There’s a handful of us that aren’t playing up to our potential and I think it stings,” said left tackle Nate Solder. “People say ‘great job’ but you know how much better it could be. That’s how I feel and I think some other guys feel the same way. It takes a lot to win so I understand that we have to enjoy that but you also take it hard when you’re not playing the way you think you can play. I appreciate every player and every second we’re playing and every ounce of effort and I want to play better. Both can be true.”

The Patriots are like a scratch golfer putting up a 78. Good for you. Good for me. He ain’t gonna like it though.

Surveying the NFL landscape, the Patriots are pretty much like the rest of the NFL’s presumed upper-crust. The Falcons blew a 17-point lead and lost to the Dolphins on Sunday. The Chiefs lost at home to the Steelers who were presumed dead last week. The Raiders lost to the Chargers. We could go on with the litany of examples of other teams trying to find their footing. The difference here is that the expectation wasn’t that the Patriots were in the bucket with the “other teams.” The expectation was that they were far and away the class of the NFL.

We were disabused of that notion weeks ago, but even so, the improvement is glacially slow in coming. Josh McCown dropped 354 yards on them on Sunday and the Jets went 9 for 17 on third down.

Brady’s agitation with the inefficiency – and he wasn’t flawless on Sunday by a far sight – is part of the process as well. Whether it was his cup-throwing rage in 2010 when the Patriots were playing at Pittsburgh or his screaming at the moon in 2013 in the rain during a Week 2 game against the Jets, eventually he’s going to go to the whip as a leader.

“I’m always a little edgy out there for one reason or another,” he explained when asked why he was running hot. “It’s just an emotional game. I don’t know what it was today, I think it was just frustration from the way things were going and our execution. It just blows up a little bit.”

I asked Dont'a Hightower how important it is for the leaders on the team to make sure there’s a refusal to settle for “good enough.”

“We have the right guys saying it and guys are buying in, but we need to keep harping on it,” he said. “We know what we need to do we just haven’t gone out and done it for a full 60 minutes.”

I asked him if that performance is coming.

“I hope so,” he replied. 

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