By now most NFL fans are aware that Tom Brady has amassed nearly 1,000 passing yards in just the first two weeks of the regular season. We also know that the talented and menacing tight-end combination of Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez have combined for 5 touchdowns in the Patriots' first two games. Even the struggling Ochocinco has started to contribute, slowly but surely; he had 2 great catches for 45 yards in Sunday's win over the Chargers.
But what else did we learn about the 2011 New England Patriots in their home-opener at Gillette?
Pats Defense Will Survive On Big Plays
Last year the Patriots led the league in turnover differential, and it looks like they are on pace to continue that trend. Although their overall defense has suffered from injuries and a regime change that left it younger and more inexperienced than the Super Bowl defenses in the early 2000's, big plays and clutch tendencies have kept them from being a destructive Achilles heel.
Yesterday was just another example of such, led by a most impressive goal-line stand in which Philip Rivers and his high-powered offense were denied on a fourth-and-inches situation. Vince Wilfork earned the first interception of his career, as the Pro-Bowler grabbed a wobbly Rivers pass and put the Patriots in line to score on a 41 yard kick from the reliable Stephen Gostkoswki. In all, the Pats scored 17 points off of turnovers.
However their secondary is still very weak, relying on the young Devin McCourty, the oft-injured Leigh Bodden and a safety core anchored by the still developing Pat Chung. Big pass plays in between the twenties will continue to be their downfall until they improve their pass rushing and man to man coverages. Every decent defense should be able to maximize turnover opportunities, but great defenses must be more well-rounded. If teams continue to drive into the red zone so easily, the Patriots' are bound to lose some of those battles against smart and talented offenses.
Tom Brady Is Covering Up Some Big Holes On Pats' Offensive Line
The impact of the loss of center Dan Koppen, as well as the injury to Sebastian Vollmer, may be getting overlooked due to Brady's otherworldly effectiveness. Brady is outplaying even himself right now, putting up two of the best offensive performances of his career to start this season.
Even if he does continue to be as effective and explosive as he has been so far, it's at a much higher risk to his health. He was sacked twice yesterday, including one that should have been flagged for violation of what is nicknamed the "Brady Rule"; the one in which a defender cannot tackle or hit a quarterback below the knees. Brady himself admitted that he was glad he was wearing a knee brace at thetime.
Just because the man can stand in the eye of a storm as five defenders close in on him with furious speed and hit a moving target right in the chest, doesn't mean he should have to. If the offensive line continues to let him get hit, no matter how effective he is, the Patriots' season is in jeopardy. I don't mean to sound like an alarmist, but if that hit didn't worry you as a Pats fan, I don't know what will.