Tom Brady knows what people have come to expect from the Patriots — and in particular the Patriots offense.
He was the best player in football in 2016, leading one of the league's best offenses, and only missed out on that season's MVP honors because of his Deflategate suspension. He was the best player in football in 2017 and followed up an MVP season with a 500-yard performance in the Super Bowl.
Really, since 2007, this has annually been among the best offenses in the league.
But now the offense is far from lighting up the scoreboard, and Brady is a long way from filling up the stat sheet as he did in the 2007, 2010, 2016 or 2017 seasons.
The Patriots scored 22 points in Sunday's loss to the Texans. But they had just nine points late in the fourth quarter against one of the league's worst third-down defenses and the worst red-zone defense.
That kind of night doesn't mesh with the Patriots' expectations, even if they've shown over the last month that they're struggling to retain possession and score when in the red zone.
They've done enough to win games when their defense has been lights-out, as was the case in Philadelphia and against the Cowboys. But when the defense gives up its share — as it did in Houston and Baltimore — then the Patriots have issues keeping pace offensively.
Old expectations don't apply anymore, Brady told WEEI's "Greg Hill Show" on Monday, especially considering how the offense is constructed at the moment.
"We're not 2-10," Brady said. "We're 10-2. I know there's very high expectations, as there are for us. I think the expectations for our team often are a very, very, very high level. And I understand that.
"At the same time, I think there's realistic expectations with our circumstances, incorporating different elements and players and injuries, and we're just trying to do the best that we can do. We've got a whole season ahead of us. We've gotta try to learn from the things we did last night and try to go out there and try to get a really tough win against [Kansas City] and see if we can get back to winning."
Against the Chiefs, the Patriots will see one of the most dynamic offenses in football, led by one of the game's best quarterbacks. It's another offense that has the ability to put up big numbers, another offense that — if the Patriots defense has a hiccup — the Patriots offense would have trouble running with.
When Brady was asked on WEEI about Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes, he said last year's MVP is "pretty spectacular." But then he went on to explain why the Chiefs offense is so effective, and it's hard to not read his comments and consider the things that are ailing the Patriots offense at the moment: a lack of weaponry outside of Julian Edelman and James White; a lack of a Rob Gronkowski replacement; a lack of team speed.
"They have a very good team," Brady said. "They have a very good offense. They have very dynamic receivers, one of the best groups in the league. They got one of the best tight ends in the league. They have some great running backs.
"Patrick distributes to all of them. It makes it very hard to defend when you have a lot of players you can get the ball to. It's a big challenge for our defense. Offensively we're going to have to play a great game. Gonna have to take advantage of our scoring opportunities and keep from turning the ball over and see if we can go out there and beat a very good team at home."
Playing at home should help the Patriots offense. But it's worth wondering, given their circumstances, how much better they can be.
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