The New England Patriots are coming off a clunker of a loss last week against the Buffalo Bills. With rookie quarterback Jacoby Brissett playing the role of sacrificial lamb in the final game without Tom Brady, the offense was ineffective against Rex Ryan and the Buffalo Bills as they were shutout 16-0.
Brissett had surgery on this injured right thumb this week and has been placed on season-ending injured reserve. Jimmy Garoppolo will have to back-up Brady as Brissett’s thumb injury was clearly worse than believed and probably had no business trying to throw a football last week.
The worst performance against Buffalo was the New England defense. The unit was gashed by running back LeSean McCoy and the short passing game of quarterback Tyrod Taylor. The Patriots’ defensive game plan of repeatedly dropping into a zone defense forced Taylor to put together long drives with accurate, short passes and that is exactly what he did in the first half.
The coaches on both sides of the ball were overly conservative and uninspired. The defense failed to make big plays and the offense (outside of Martellus Bennett) looked overmatched. Even the special teams unit–so strong the week before against Houston–was making mistakes.
It was something not often seen in New England in the past decade and a half: a sloppy, ugly, uninspired game. However, New England has the perfect remedy: the emotional leader, the heart and soul of the franchise, Tom Brady is going to be back on the field against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday.
So without further delay, let’s get to the match-ups, the keys to to the game, and a look at both teams in Tom Brady’s first game back in 2016: