Patriots

Patriots always recover from 2-2 starts, but how much will they this season?

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Patriots always recover from 2-2 starts, but how much will they this season?

The Brady era Patriots start 2-2 nearly as often as they win the Super Bowl. They’ve actually won the Super Bowl in two seasons that featured 2-2 starts. So yeah, boom. Super Bowl champions. 

The unexpected lackluster results through four games, including a loss to the still-undefeated Chiefs and a defeat at the hands of the now 3-1 Panthers, is not unprecedented. The aforementioned .500 starts came in 2003, 2005, 2012 and 2014. 

With fewer people labeling the 2017 Patriots as sure-fire Super Bowl champions as they were in the offseason (my Monopoly money is still on them winning it all), the more immediate hope for Pats fans is that the team will simply improve. It should come as no surprise that those other 2-2 starts suggest they will. 

The most recent 2-2 start, 2014, saw the Pats allow 90 points over the first four games, including 33 points to the Dolphins in a season-opening loss and 41 points in the infamous Monday night drubbing against the Chiefs. They straightened things out in short order, as they allowed more than 23 points just twice the rest of the season as they won 10 of their final 12 games. 

In 2003, the Pats were outscored by a 77-71 mark over the first four weeks. Though they allowed 30 points to the Titans in a Week 5 win, they went on to allow just 161 points the rest of the season, including three shutouts and five games with six or fewer points allowed. That team, of course, ran the table from Week 5 on and won the Super Bowl. 

Those are the stories of the 2-2 teams that got their acts together quickly. The other two -- 2005 and 2012 -- didn’t. The 2005 Pats continued to lose every other game en route to a 4-4 start. The 2012 team started 3-3. 

It’s not difficult to see what the 2003 and 2014 teams had in common and what traits were shared between the 2005 and 2012 teams. The 2003 and 2014 Pats both had strong talent on defense and were working in a star free agent in the secondary (Rodney Harrison in 2003, Darrelle Revis in 2014). The 2005 and 2012 Pats had questions on defense that ultimately weren’t answered. 

Case in point: Here’s where the 2003 and 2014 Pats finished defensively compared to the 2005 and 2012 teams: 

2003: first in points allowed, seventh in yards allowed (finished 14-2, won Super Bowl)
2014: eighth in points allowed, 13th in yards allowed (finished 12-4, won Super Bowl)

2005: 17th in points allowed, 26th in yards allowed (finished 10-6, lost in divisional round)
2012: ninth in points allowed, 25h in yards allowed (finished 12-4, lost AFC championship)

So the question is whether this defense will follow the route of the 2003 and 2014 teams or the 2005 and 2012 ones. Their talent in the secondary suggests a finish like the 2014 group isn’t out of the question, but then again the 128 points they’ve allowed through four games is far and away the most of these 2-2 teams (20 more than the 2005 team, which allowed 108 points through four games; the 2003 team allowed 77 and the 2014 squad allowed 90). 

The good news is that even in the case of those lesser defenses, they greatly improved after their slow starts. The 2012 and 2005 teams both allowed much fewer points per game over the final 12 than over the first four, with the 2005 team allowing over a touchdown less (27 points allowed per game over the first four games, 19.16 points allowed per game over the final 12). 

So the Patriots have been here before, and they’ve improved after. The question is how much they will this season, and how soon. 

Welker: Brady's absence from voluntary work might've benefitted Patriots receivers

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Welker: Brady's absence from voluntary work might've benefitted Patriots receivers

BOSTON -- Wes Welker has been keeping up with his old team. He's a competitor now, in his second year as a Texans offensive and special teams assistant, but he's aware of what's happening with the Patriots.

He's aware that his buddy Tom Brady, the guy who threw Welker well over 800 passes in five seasons, opted not to take part in the voluntary workouts held at Gillette Stadium this spring.

And even though Welker is now a coach, even though one would assume all coaches carry the belief that all players should show up to all workouts whenever possible, he believes it wasn't a big deal for Brady to skip that which wasn't mandatory.

In fact, Welker believes Brady's absence may have actually benefitted the Patriots in some ways.

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"He's got a family," Welker said Tuesday at the Leonard Hair Transplant Associates media day at the Battery Wharf Hotel. "He's got a wife who wants to take the family on vacation.

"What are you really teaching Tom Brady at this point? And, you know, if you're worried about him getting on the same page with the receivers, that's really why you would have coaches. The coaches are really able to emphasize with those guys what they want them to do.
It's a really good opportunity for those guys to play together without Tom and kind of figure it out."

Welker's insistence that spring workouts may not help Brady all that much is hard to argue. Brady is going into his 41-year-old season. He knows the offense. He's long been maniacal about keeping himself in good physical condition.

But because the entire Patriots organization has long touted spring work as critical -- as a time to lay the foundation for the rest of the year -- it's hard to believe that what happens in the spring is now gravy.

And for a player like Brady, who knows enough to be an effective teacher during what is commonly referred to as a "teaching camp," it would make sense that his presence at spring practices would be beneficial to others even if he personally doesn't gain much from it.

Welker, though, insisted. Brady's absence may have helped the players he'll be throwing to next week when training camp begins.

"I personally think so," he said. "It's got to get figured out somehow, and it can't always be him doing it."

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Welker knows challenges Edelman faces in recovery

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Welker knows challenges Edelman faces in recovery

BOSTON -- Wes Welker and Julian Edelman will always share a connection. They were teammates from 2009 through 2012. Last summer, Edelman credited Welker with essentially creating a position that Edelman has manned.

When Edelman tore his ACL in Detroit during a preseason game last summer, the pair shared another connection. Welker tore up his ACL and MCL at the very end of the 2009 season, robbing Tom Brady of one of his favorite targets for the playoffs. 

Because the timing of the two injuries was so different -- over a year will separate Edelman's injury and Week 1 of this season, while Welker had eight months -- they haven't had an apples-to-apples recovery schedule. 

But at the Leonard Hair Transplant Associates media day at the Battery Wharf Hotel on Tuesday, Welker gave some insight into what he experienced after his serious knee injury as a receiver who, like Edelman, relies on his ability to cut and cut hard. 

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"It was tough," Welker said. "I didn't have as much time, and I look back and I wish I had taken more. But I just wanted to get back on the field so badly. You know, it took me the whole year and really getting to that next offseason where I could really train and get ready for the next season."

Welker explained that it took him a long time, multiple seasons, before he could trust his knee to make the same cut he made when he suffered the injury.

"I think even years after, you're still playing on that thing and anytime you make that same cut, you almost don't want to make it," he said. "Those hard cuts like that -- real hard, when you're trying to make a guy miss -- those are kind of rare. But you can feel when you're about to make one, and in your mind, in that split-second, [you] remember what happened last time. It's a tough, brutal injury."

Welker was 28 years old when he tore his ACL and MCL. Edelman turned 32 in May and is scheduled to be suspended the four games of the 2018 season after having been found to have violated the league's performance-enhancing drug policy. Edelman appealed the decision late last month, but his appeal was denied by a third-party arbitrator. 

During spring practices Edelman insisted he was improving with each passing day, and he appeared to have little issue when it came to running and cutting during drills. Edelman was limited during team periods at Patriots practices.

Welker went on to make three more Pro Bowls following his injury, and he played six more seasons. In 2010, Welker caught 86 passes for 848 yards. Both were low marks during his six years in New England, but still good enough for a Pro Bowl nod. In 2011, Welker was a First-Team All-Pro after catching 122 passes for a career-high 1,569 yards.

Given what Welker knows about Edelman and Edelman's work ethic, he believes Edelman will bounce back.

"I think he'll be fine," Welker said. "He works really hard. He does all the right things. [He's] just trying to work to get back there on the field. He's had almost a whole year by the time the season starts and should be good to go."

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