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New England Patriots Need To Become An Elite Defensive Team After Offensive Struggles

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Aqib Talib

Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

Heading into their Week 2 matchup against the New York Jets last night, most NFL fans thought that the New England Patriots would obliterate the Jets. The result, however, was quite different. The Patriots won the game at the very end by a score of 13-10, thanks to a second Aqib Talib interception thrown by QB Geno Smith.

The Patriots’ offense, for the second straight week against a mediocre opponent, was horrendous in the game. Tom Brady completed less than 50 percent of his passes with only one touchdown pass and 185 yards passing in the contest, marking the first time that Brady had that low of a completion percentage since 2009.

Although Brady did not look particularly sharp in the game, the bad night was not all on him by any means. His receivers struggled all night with drops as Kenbrell Thompkins and Aaron Dobson (or as he was called on social media, “Aaron Dropson”) let the ball slip through their hands at frequent intervals.

Had it not been for one TD pass to Dobson that was a result of busted coverage by the Jets, this game could have resulted in a Patriots loss. The lone bright spot, if you can call it that, was Julian Edelman, who caught 13 passes from Brady for 78 yards.

The Patriots may be coming to a crossroads at this point. A team that has rode Brady’s coattails for the better part of eight years is now seeing their worst offensive production since he took over the franchise.

Rob Gronkowski is inching his way back from multiple injuries, but it is impossible to know how he will play when he returns. Danny Amendola could be out for up to six weeks, and Thompkins continues to come up cold in game situations, although he did have a touchdown reception called back in the game.

For these reasons, the Patriots must shift their priority from being an offensive juggernaut to a defense-first football team. Talib and Alfonzo Dennard both did an excellent job in the secondary containing the Jets’ receivers, as they did not allow a single touchdown pass on the night.

In doing this, the team is showing that they have a competent secondary, provided neither of them miss time this season. The only real weakness that has been seen and could be a theme all year long is inconsistent safety play. If the Patriots can improve in that area, they could emerge as a top-10 defense by season’s end.

Additionally, the team was able to put constant pressure on Smith led by Chandler Jones, who sacked him twice and was an absolute beast in the game.  Add to the mix the presence of Rob Ninkovich and Michael Buchanan, who both made their presence felt last night, and this team could give opposing quarterbacks fits.

Given the fact that it could be a struggle to get the rookie receivers on the same page with Brady this season, the team must continue to grow defensively to contend this year. If not, the team could be in for a long season and Tom may not be so terrific in 2013, especially against the elite football teams come playoff time.

Will Gellman is a New England Patriots’ Sports Writer For  Follow him on Twitter @Will_Gellman, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.

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