FOXBORO -- For Mohamed Sanu to have picked up the Patriots offense to the point where he was able to execute a game plan like the one Josh McDaniels deployed on Sunday, he had to have put in all kinds of work beforehand.
He was targeted 14 times -- catching 10, including a touchdown -- on the road as part of a hurry-up Patriots attack. That kind of production served as proof that Tom Brady liked what he'd seen from Sanu in the time they'd worked together up to that point.
"He's done a great job," Brady told Scott Zolak for WBZ's Patriots All-Access. "Any time someone's forced in, in a short period of time, it's really hard to learn an entire offense that most guys are starting in March and then installing and picking up these things. And every team has nuances. I certainly have a way that I like the receivers to play. It's hard to get someone up to speed in a very short period of time.
"He's someone that's done everything we could expect and more. Him having the targets the other night, making the plays, not only his hands, his run-after-the-catch, his toughness, we're definitely gonna have some fun working together the second half of the year as he gets more comfortable, confident in what we're doing and we gain more of a shared vision of how we see things. I think our chemistry is going to keep improving."
That may be the shiniest of silver linings to take away from New England's first loss of the season. While Baltimore gashed the Patriots on the ground, while they came away with turnovers to slow down Brady and his teammates, the fact that the Patriots clearly have another usable weapon to lean on in critical spots could be one of the most significant developments of their season.
Not only should Sanu's role in the offense help prevent Julian Edelman from being overused in the slot -- though Edelman was busy catching 10 passes against the Ravens -- he should also give Brady a dependable player on third downs and in the red zone outside of Edelman and James White.
The Patriots are squarely in the middle of the pack in the NFL as the 15th offense in football when it comes to third-down conversions (39.7 percent). They're 21st in red-zone conversions, making good with touchdowns on 50 percent of their chances inside an opponent's 20-yard line.
It's hard to know how exactly the Patriots will up those numbers following this week's bye. Will rookie first-rounder N'Keal Harry have a say? Will the running game improve on first and second down, making their third-down opportunities more manageable?
One thing that became clear after Sanu's second game with the Patriots is that he should figure heavily into any improvement the Patriots make offensively during the second portion of their schedule.
"At this point now we've got the group we've got," Brady said. "I think guys are learning and establishing their roles. We're going to try to make the most of those as we move forward."
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