5 things New England Patriots must improve on

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2. Protecting Tom Brady

Brady is arguably the best quarterback of all-time, but he is brought down to earth when pressured. Just ask the 2007 and 2011 Giants, they know that for a fact.

In recent weeks, the Broncos and Eagles have breathed down Brady’s neck, and it’s affected the offense from the top-down. Brady was hit nine times and sacked three times against Denver; those numbers only increased on Sunday when the Eagles whacked Brady 13 times and registered four sacks.

Must-read: Takeaways from loss to Eagles

It should be noted that the absence of Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski have made Brady hold on to the ball longer, as those two are almost always open early in Brady’s reads. But the offensive line has been on a downswing since the Buffalo game when Brady got tossed around like a rag doll, and it’s putting the Patriots’ most valuable player in some jeopardizing situations.

The Pats had better figure out ways to neutralize the Texans’ feisty front highlighted by J.J. Watt and Jadaveon Clowney, or else Brady will find himself taking another 10, 11 hits and a handful of sacks on Sunday night. Sebastian Vollmer will likely be tasked with blocking Watt; how well Vollmer fares in Week 14 could dictate how well the Patriots play.

Again, the presence of dependable power running game would go a long way toward keeping Brady safe in the pocket.

Next: 1. Tackling