Here are this week’s grades for the New England Patriots.
Passing Offense: A+
Not sure the Patriots could have thrown the ball any better than they did on Thursday night. Tom Brady was in a zone all night, as he picked apart the Steelers with ease. Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski dominated their respective matchups, combining for 16 catches, 191 yards, and three touchdowns. Dion Lewis also got involved in the passing game, showing that he is far and away the best third down back New England has on their roster.
The offensive line held up nicely, especially considering their top two interior lineman were out. Brady was sacked twice, although you could make an argument neither of the two sacks were on the offensive line. Of course, it helps that Brady gets ride of the ball so fast, but its not like that is something he has had to start doing recently. That is a staple of a Brady-led attack, and when you take that into consideration, New England’s line played great
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Rushing Offense: B
80 yards on 24 carries doesn’t look good, but keep in mind the Patriots’ gameplan in this game was to spread Pittsburgh out, and kill them through the air. If the Pats came into this game trying to run the ball, and 80 yards was all they could muster, then they would earn a failing grade.
I was impressed with Dion Lewis once again, as his shiftiness and acceleration is going to give defenses fits throughout 2015. He looks a lot like Danny Woodhead when he was in Foxboro, and I could make an argument that he is even more explosive than little number 39 was. I can’t wait to see what he has in store for us in week two.
Pass Defense: B-
Look, defending Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown is no easy task, especially with a secondary this young and inexperienced. The final numbers are kind of skewed, as the Steelers gained a lot of yards in garbage time, but overall, I liked what I saw from New England. Malcolm Butler competed hard against Brown, and he was actually in good position for most of the night.
The pass rush struggled without Dominique Easley, although as is typical from a Bill Belichick defense, the pass rushers never really tee off at the quarterback. It is more of a “mush” rush, as they try to contain Big Ben from making plays outside the pocket. This secondary will begin to come together, and Belichick will slowly work more blitzes into the scheme as the season goes on. Combine that with Easley return in a few weeks, and I have faith the Pats’ defense will be fine come playoff time.
Run Defense: B-
Giving up 134 yards on 25 carries is never good, but when you consider the Patriots were playing with a light front throughout this entire game, it is understandable. Like Bill Belichick often does when he plays Peyton Manning, he dared the Steelers to throw the football. The Pats had three safeties for a majority of this game, and Geneo Grissom was your defensive tackle for a large portion as well.
If Belichick wants to stop the run, he will play Alan Branch and Sealver Siliga a lot more than he did on Thursday night. I’m not saying the run defense is perfect, because it is far from that, but wait until we see the Patriots actually employ a defense trying to stop the run before we make any rash judgments.