A RETURN TO FORM:
The New England Patriots were a different team from weeks one through ten with Julian Edelman at wide receiver as New England went 9-0 with him and never scoring less than 27 points in their wins. New England topped 350 yards of total offense and had 20 or more first downs in each game with Edelman, Rob Gronkowski, and Danny Amendola in the lineup.
The injuries piled up for the key skill position players with receiving running back Dion Lewis going on injured reserve earlier in the season, workhorse running back LeGarrette Blount going to injured reserve as well, Gronkowski, Amendola, wide receiver Brandon LaFell missing most of the first half of the season, Aaron Dobson put on injured reserve, and backup tight end Scott Chandler banged-up and missed games down the stretch. The injury bug hit the offensive line as well as New England had 18 different line combinations and five different left tackles. At one point, center Bryan Stork was coming off of short-term injured reserve and having to play at right tackle for the first time in his career.
With all the injuries, none were as important to the offense as Julian Edelman. Although Amendola in his role in the second half of the win over the New York Giants in week 10 and the victory against Buffalo in week 11, when he was injured on Sunday night in Denver and Rob Gronkowski also was carted off the field, the outlook was bleak. The Patriots lost that game, were upset by Philadelphia, righted the ship temporarily in Houston and against Tennessee, but dropped their final two games of the regular season on the road to the New York Jets and Miami Dolphins.
In those games with so many missing pieces, the offense topped 350 total yards just twice (Buffalo and Philadelphia) and had more than 20 first downs just once (Philadelphia). Against the Chiefs, quarterback Tom Brady made it clear that the offense was not going to be the same unit that struggled down the stretch: Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski accounted for 67 of the 80 yards on the first drive as New England marched down the field for a quick 7-0 lead.
Brady finished with 28 completions on 42 attempts for 302 yards and 2 passing touchdowns while adding a ten yard scramble in the red zone and his patented quarterback sneak for a rushing touchdown. Edelman led the way with 10 receptions for 100 yards and Gronkowski had 7 grabs for 83 yards and 2 receiving touchdowns.
For the Patriots, the offense was still out of sync after the bye week and getting the pieces all together at last in a game. Edelman had a number of drops and Danny Amendola had another big drop. New England had two punts in the first half and another three-and-out in the fourth quarter. They had to settle for field goals twice in the second half and were not as sharp as expected.
The scary thing is that this Patriots offense is clearly on the upswing. After another week of practice together and with the rust worked off on Saturday against Kansas City, the New England offense should be at full strength next week in the AFC Championship game.
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