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Before the NFL season started, the conventional wisdom was that the New England Patriots, winners of three of the past five Super Bowls, were on the decline. Many even predicted the Pats to finish behind the Miami Dolphins in the AFC East.
Outside of New England, most die-hard football fans couldn't even name one Patriots wide receiver and on the defensive end desperation resulted in the Patriots signing former San Diego Chargers and Miami Dolphins linebacker Junior Seau. Seau was in his 12th season and many considered him the definition of an NFL has-been.
As the old saying goes that is why they play games - proving that an NFL team does not need all-stars to win, but rather a group of guys that play together and understand fundamentals. Over the past six games, fans have been reminded that the Pats are indeed a talented team. They also have been reminded about the importance of a team staying healthy in the NFL - something the Pats failed to do a year ago.
Last year the Patriots lost Rodney Harrison for the season, Richard Seymour for six games, Tedy Bruschi did not start playing until the team's seventh game, and Corey Dillon played hurt for most of the year.
Not exactly, a picture of perfect health when four of your top players miss significant playing time.
With a new group of receivers in Foxboro, Tom Brady essentially needed to rebuild a Patriots offense that had been one of the most productive units in the NFL over the course of the 2004 and 2005 seasons. A task that probably was challenging and frustrating at the same time.
Not surprisingly, Brady's statistics are down from a year ago, but Brady is willing to sacrifice his statistics if it means winning.
"Quarterback rating doesn't mean a whole lot to me alot of things that go into that don't mean much in the outcome of games," said Brady after the Pats 28-6 win over Buffalo on Sunday. "It is nice when you are throwing touchdowns and no interceptions."
When receivers were not getting open early in the season even a quarterback as good as Brady will struggle. Brady, however, is developing chemistry with his receivers and slowly but surely the Pats offense is improving.
"I have said it a thousands times at this point we are trying to improve. It does not come together as fast as you like when you just get to know guys," said Brady. "We just keeping doing the things the we are doing them now and are going to get better," said Brady.
It is hard to argue that Brady was not frustrated with the departure of his top two wide receivers from a year ago. The quarterback even admitted that he was preoccupied with the Deion Branch situation in his preparation for the Pats season opener against Buffalo to the point where it affected his play.
"I spent alot of energy thinking about it and at the end of the week it really wasted alot of my time and alot of my energy," said Brady. "It was a big mental drain and I think it affected the way I played. I just didn't feel like I brought as much to the table as I normally could."
Brady finally realized he needed to move on. Perhaps, the Patriots loss to the Denver Broncos best revealed the true resolve and determination of the Pats QB. The offense was anemic and only a late touchdown prevented the Pats from putting a bagel on the scoreboard.
It would have been easy for Brady to blame his receivers or say something along the lines of it would have been much easier working with my old receivers. Instead, Brady took the high road.
"I am so far past that at this point," said Brady when asked if the departure of Branch was the reason the Pats offense was struggling.
There is no doubt that if the new Pats receivers heard Brady complain about their play, it would have complicated the working relationship between the quarterback and his pass catchers. Brady, however, stayed positive and all the offense did the next week was put up 38 points in a victory over the Cincinnati Bengals.
The offense looked even better on Sunday in a win over the Buffalo Bills and with a defense that is healthy once again-look for the Patriots to compete with the Broncos and Indianapolis Colts for the top spot in the AFC this season.
1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers kicker Matt Bryant for hitting a 62-yard field goal with no time remaining to give victory over the Eagles. 2. Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick - the Falcons put up 41 points in their victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers.
1. The Miami Dolphins - It will be a long bye week for Dolphins players. 2. The Cleveland Browns- Has anybody thought about them lately. Simply put, they are not a very good football team at 1-5.
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