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The ideal scenario is for Patrick Chung to return from (another) injury healthy and with his hair on fire headed toward unrestricted free agency. That would give them a secondary, in order of talent and effectiveness, of Talib, Devin McCourty, Chung, Steve Gregory, Alfonzo Dennard, Kyle Arrington, Tavon Wilson, and Marquice Cole.
That group is young and inexperienced, but it is talented. It’s a world’s better than last year’s group. Are they playing like it now? Certainly not. It’s up to Belichick to find the right combination of players between cornerback and safety to get the job done. His track record is sterling in this regard. I believe Belichick will do that until it doesn’t happen. And then I’ll pass out.
And we also advocate for Belichick to take over the secondary, if not the entire defense, down the stretch. Matt Patricia, the defensive coordinator, and assistants Josh Boyer (cornerbacks) and Brian Flores (safeties) appear overmatched, though Flores seems to have a fine future.
It’s time for Belichick to stop telling those guys how he wants it done, and just do it himself, which he did at one point last season with the secondary.
Tom Brady and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels can handle the offense just fine, as long as Belichick rips the 252 pages out of McDaniels’s playbook dedicated to deceptive plays that never seem to work. (Toss sweep out of the shotgun, and a play-action, fake-reverse pass on the final drive, really?)
It starts this week against the upstart but overmatched Colts. Talib will likely draw receiver Reggie Wayne. The Patriots will also put a safety over the top, and I expect something along the lines of the one catch for 4 yards that Larry Fitzgerald of the Cardinals had against the Talib-less Patriots in Week 2. Wayne’s 69 receptions are almost double that of the nearest Colt. When was the last time the Patriots failed to minimize the primary weapon of a limited offensive team?
The one thing going against this team is that the final seven games are not going to be the cakewalk they were last season, when the best quarterback they faced was a pick ’em between Rex Grossman and Fitzpatrick.
Looming back-to-back home games against the Texans and 49ers will be valuable chances for the Patriots to not only measure where they are, but gain confidence heading into the postseason.
If the Patriots beat both the Texans and 49ers, would anyone remember what transpired earlier in the season? Of course not.
And since both teams feature conventional run-based offenses that are in the wheelhouse of these Patriots, does anyone think they couldn’t hold their own against Matt Schaub and Alex Smith?
The one redeeming thing about the Patriots’ defense, which was on display again on Sunday, was its uncanny ability to make big plays when needed.
If it can find a way to add discipline and consistency to the playmaking, the Patriots will have something. The talent, especially with Talib, is there. Now Belichick needs to fit the pieces of the puzzle together like he always does.
Forget about the hollow victory over the Bills. It’s over.
The rest of the season starts today.