Tom Brady and the Patriots have gone three-and-out on all four of their first possessions of games this season. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Tom Brady and the Patriots have gone three-and-out on all four of their first possessions of games this season. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

FOXBORO — These Patriots are slow starters – and so far this season- they have had a lot of trouble getting up to speed.

Through the first four games, the Patriots have gone three-and-out on all four of their first possessions and have allowed their opponent to score first in each of the four games.

Offensively on first drives the Patriots have ran three running plays totaling four yards and quarterback Tom Brady is 3-for-8 with 12 yards passing. Defensively, it has allowed 152 yards and two touchdowns on first drives — an average of 38 yards per drive, compared to just four yards per drive on offense.

“œWe have a high standard here, and we should,” offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said on a conference call Tuesday. “It’€™s a very competitive league, obviously, and we need to do a better job on offense regardless of the situation or circumstances. [Whoever] is out there we have faith and confidence in. Like I said, we can coach better and certainly need to. And we can play better. I think every year is a process that you go through, and I don’€™t think you’€™re really ever where you’€™re going to be when you start the year, but I think the key thing for us is we’€™ve got to improve each week.”

Fast starts are something the Patriots have been notorious for over the years, especially defensively. On opening drives last season the Patriots allowed just one touchdown –€“ they’€™ve allowed two in the first four weeks of this season. Offensively they had just five three-and-outs on opening drives — one shy of that through four games this season.

The offense has been out of sync to open games. Against the Chiefs Monday, instead of establishing the run against a team in the bottom half of the league when defending the run, the unit threw the ball on all three plays — a four-yard gain followed by two incompletions. A week prior against the Raiders, another team struggling against the run, the unit threw the ball on all three plays — two incompletions followed by a four-yard gain. Against the Vikings in Week 2 it was three straight runs — no gain, two yards gain and a seven-yard gain ‘€“ leading to yet another punt on the opening possession. Finally in Week 1, it was a run for two yards, a four-yard completion and an incompletion followed by a blocked punt.

None of those starts are what the Patriots are used to as in first quarter scoring it has been ranked in the top 10 in 10 of the last 11 seasons. This year they are 13th. The last time the Patriots scored a touchdown on their opening drive was Week 7 against the Jets last season.

Scoring first has led to tremendous success as since 2010 the Patriots are 26-4 and since 2000 110-25 when having the first score of a game.

When searching for answers as to how the Patriots can get better and more consistent, it may be pretty simple: score first.

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable
Tom Brady and the Patriots have struggled through the first four games of the season. (Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

Tom Brady and the Patriots have struggled through the first four games of the season. (Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

The Patriots sluggish start to the year on the offensive side of the ball has been stunning — through the first four games, New England is 29th in the league in total offense (298.5 yards per game), 30th in average passing yards per game (201.0), 23rd in average rushing hards per game (97.5) and 24th in average points per game (20).

The advanced stats aren’t any kinder to Tom Brady and the rest of the New England offense. The Patriots are currently 28th in the league when it comes to offensive DVOA — as measured by Football Outsiders — at -17 percent, ahead of only the Jets, Buccaneers, Raiders, and Jaguars. (By way of comparison, the Falcons lead the league at 26.6 percent.)

While the fall from grace has been stunning, it’s not unprecedented. Football Outsiders recently published a piece looking at four other teams who spent at least three seasons in the top 5 of offensive DVOA before falling to 20th or worse at the start of the following season. It reveals the 2014 Patriots to be in some pretty interesting company.

1999 Broncos: This wasn’t a complete surprise, as the Broncos lost John Elway to retirement and Terrell Davis suffered a torn ACL. As a result, their offensive DVOA was -23.0 percent after four games, 28th in the league. There was improvement over the course of the season, however, as young quarterback Brian Griese evolved into a starting quarterback, and Denver stood at 3.4 by seasons end while finishing with a 6-10 record.

2002 Rams: Another case where there was a change at quarterback, but in this case, it was Kurt Warner getting hurt and St. Louis turning to Marc Bulger as a placeholder. (Torry Holt missed five games. Marshall Faulk and Orlando Pace each missed six games for a Rams team that ultimately finished 7-9 and out of the playoffs.) St. Louis was at -16.8 percent over the first four games, but their improvement to -10.2 percent left them 26th overall.

2003 49ers: This might be the most palatable comparison for Patriots fans. San Francisco, with Jeff Garcia, Terrell Owens and running backs Kevan Barlow and Garrison Hearst, was at -12.7 percent after the first four weeks, good for 27th in the league (thanks in large part to a Week 4 blowout loss to the Vikings). But the Niners’ offense was able to gel down the stretch, and you could make the argument the only reason they missed the playoffs and finish 7-9 was because of a lousy defense and poor special teams. The 49ers finished the year with 7.8 percent DVOA for all 16 games, god for 11th in the league.

2012 Chargers: In what turned out to be a miserable year for quarterback Philip Rivers — his last with Norv Turner as the head coach in San Diego — the Chargers had an -11 percent DVOA after four games, 20th in the NFL. They were able to get their collective act together down the stretch (after losing seven of eight at one point) and end up at 7-9 and a -10 percent DVOA (24th).

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

FOXBORO — The tough questions are starting to come at Bill Belichick.

If Josh McDaniels is using his latest stint as an offensive coordinator to audition for a new head coaching job, he might want to think abut eventually erasing the "2014" section from his LinkedIn page.

FOXBORO — The tough questions are starting to come at Bill Belichick.

Thirty-six hours after watching his team get dominated by the Chiefs, 41-14, Monday night in Kansas City, and in wake of speculation that Tom Brady is not happy with the roster or the weapons he’s been given, Belichick was asked about the roster and how it has impacted his starting quarterback.

The three-minute exchange was as follows:

How difficult is adversity of Monday night?

BB: We’re on to Cincinnati.

You mentioned Tom’s age in the draft…?

BB: We’re on to Cincinnati.

Do you think having a 37-year-old … ?

BB: We’re on to Cincinnati. It’s nothing about the past. It’s nothing about the future. Right now, we’re getting ready for Cincinnati.

Do you think you’ve done enough to help Tom Brady.

BB: We’re getting ready for Cincinnati. That’s what we’re doing.

As you get ready for Cincinnati, does Tom Brady have the talent and protection around him to get ready for Cincinnati?

BB: We’re going to game plan and do the best we can and be ready to go Sunday night, the same as we always do. Nothing’s changed.

How much closer are we to an O-line that’s going to be comfortable with the positions that they’re in?

BB: We’re going to put the best players out there this weekend that we can, and we’ll see how that plays out.

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia
Tom Brady discussed the blowout loss.

Making his weekly appearance on Dennis & Callahan, Tom Brady attempted to explain the team’s poor play in Monday’s embarrassing loss to the Chiefs and why the already-struggling offense appears to be getting worse.

Tom Brady and the Patriots were crushed Monday night. (Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

Tom Brady suffered one of his most embarrassing losses Monday night. (Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

Making his weekly appearance on Dennis & Callahan, Tom Brady attempted to explain the team’s poor play in Monday’s embarrassing loss to the Chiefs and why the already-struggling offense appears to be getting worse. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Brady acknowledged he did not have a good game, but he downplayed the importance of one disastrous night for him and the team.

“I think you’ve got to have enough mental toughness to endure through all the situations,” Brady said. “This game, it tests your will, it tests your mental toughness, it tests your discipline and your work ethic. I think those are the things that are going to be tested by us the rest of the year. I don’t think it’s just going to be easy to just roll out helmets out there and expect to go out there and win games. We’ve got a lot of tough opponents, the competition’s tough.

“It was a tough loss the other night, but whether you lose by one point or you lose by 30, they’re all going to count the same in the end. We’ve got to figure out the things that we need to do better, which is quite a few things in order to be a lot more competitive than we were. It was a disappointing loss, but at the same time we’ve got to be able to move on. We’ve got a short week and we’ve got a great opponent. We don’t want one bad week to turn into two bad weeks. That’s where we’ve got to show, like I said, our mental toughness and our ability to move forward, learn from our mistakes and hopefully not repeat them.”

Brady was removed from the game in the fourth quarter, with the result no longer in doubt, and backup Jimmy Garoppolo entered and threw a touchdown pass. Bill Belichick laughed off a question in his postgame news conference about a quarterback controversy.

“I just do what I’m told. I’m not overanalyzing anything. We were getting our butts kicked,” Brady said. “It was a situation where we didn’t have a good game. That’s what coach wanted to do, so that’s what we did.”

Routs of the Patriots in the Belichick-Brady era are rare, and past teams have been able to avoid allowing bad games to lead to bad seasons. However, the 2014 team has underwhelmed since the start of the season, leading to questions about whether these Patriots can turn things around.

“There’s no magic play, there’s no magic scheme. It’s us as players playing a lot better than we’re playing,” Brady said. “This hasn’t been an isolated incident. I don’t think offensively we’ve played well all year. I don’t think we’ve played well for a long time. We’ve got to figure out the reasons why we’re not playing as well as we’re capable and try to improve them.”

The other issue is that the problems seem to be team-wide, as no one area has looked especially strong.

“It’s all of us,” Brady said. “It’s not just the skill group, the line, it’s the quarterback, tight ends, receivers, backs, offense, defense — it’s a team sport. We all complement one another. Like I said, if we don’t do well offensively, yeah, then the defense is on the field. When we play from behind like we’ve played from behind the last four weeks, it usually doesn’t go very well for teams. We’ve got to do a better job getting ahead, staying ahead, so we can stay balanced, we can have our full complement of our offense, we don’t stress our pass game too much, we don’t stress the protections, the defense has more of an opportunity to play and make the calls they want — it all ties together.

“I don’t think in any phase of the game we’re playing the way we need to play in order to compete at a high level week in and week out. That’s why we were in there working yesterday and trying to figure these things out. We’re 2-2. It’s not where we want to be, but it’s where we’re at. And we’re not making excuses for it other than to say we that we’ve got to play better.

“It’s not one position, it’s not one player. It’s all players, it’s all positions, it’s all coaches, it’s everybody. That’s why we’ve got to all rally together. There’s no one that’s going to dig us out of the hole except for ourselves. Like I said, our mental toughness, our will, our ability to learn from our mistakes and move forward is going to be really important to the outcome of our season. We’ve got a lot of football to play. I’ve got a lot of confidence in the guys that I play with. That’s what we’re going to rely on. We’re going to rely on the trust that we have in one another, to go out there and do the job that we need to do.”

Following are more highlights from the interview. For more Patriots news, visit the team page at

On his individual struggles and poor statistical performance: “I don’t think we’ve played well offensively for a while. So I think that’s obviously going to reflect in every statistic that you can find, that we don’t have the kind of offense that’s going to perform at a high level. Like I said, everyone’s connected. It all ties together. I’m sure you can find a lot of statistics that aren’t what they were when we were playing well. But we’re not playing well, so we’re not going to have good stats.”

On the third-down play when he passed up running for a first down and attempted a pass to Julian Edelman that was incomplete: “It’s a split-second decision. In hindsight I wish I would have run it, because I think it would have been easier to get the first down. I kind of stepped up there in the pocket and caught Julian running across at the last second and thought I had a little space to get it in there to him. As it turned out, the ball ended up being incomplete. That’s one of the plays that I wish that I would have made a better decision on. That leads to first down, and first downs leads to keeping our defense off the field, which leads to hopefully us staying on the field longer and being able to control the ball and get more into our offense and score more points, which is our goal. The game’s about making plays and making good plays and good decisions. Those are the things that I’ve got to keep working on.”


Blog Author: 
Jerry Spar

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Stevan Ridley

Stevan Ridley

Every week, we list the Patriots’€™ “offensive touches,”€ a running tally of which one of the offensive skill position players is getting the most looks. Like our weekly look at targets, it can occasionally be an inexact stat, but it remains a good barometer of how confident the coaches (and quarterback) are when it comes to the skill position players at their disposal. Here’€™s a breakdown of the 2014 New England offense after four games:

RB Stevan Ridley: 60 (57 carries, 3 catches), 4 negative runs
RB Shane Vereen: 43 (28 carries, 15 catches) 1 negative catch
WR Julian Edelman: 30 (4 carries, 26 catches)
TE Rob Gronkowski: 13 (13 catches)
WR Brandon LaFell: 10 (10 catches)
RB Brandon Bolden: 9 (8 carries, 1 catch), 1 negative run
WR Kenbrell Thompkins: 6 (6 catches)
RB James White: 6 (3 catches, 3 carries)
QB Tom Brady: 5 (5 carries), 9 sacks, 3 kneeldowns
WR Danny Amendola: 3 (3 catches)
TE Tim Wright: 3 (3 catches)
FB James Develin: 2 (2 catches)
WR Aaron Dobson: 1 (1 catch)
TE Michael Hoomanawanui: 1 (1 catch)
QB Jimmy Garoppolo: 1 sack

Notes: The Patriots had three negative plays from scrimmage on Monday — three sacks (two of Brady, one of Garoppolo.) … On the season, New England has run 260 plays from scrimmage, and 16 of them have gone for negative yardage, not including kneeldowns. …  Against the Chiefs, the Patriots ran 49 plays, a season-low, and none of them in no-huddle. In addition, 27 of their 49 snaps (55 percent) were in shotgun formation. … On the season, the Patriots have run 19 of their 260 plays out of no-huddle (7 percent) and 94 snaps in shotgun (36 percent). By way of comparison, over the course of the 2013 regular season, the Patriots were in shotgun for 42 percent of their offensive snaps and they ran no-huddle on 11 percent of their snaps.

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price