By Eric Schmidt

The New England Patriots were stunned at home Sunday, losing to the Arizona Cardinals 20-18. During the defeat, the Patriots lost one of their best offensive weapons, TE Aaron Hernandez. WR Julian Edleman rolled up on Hernandez’s ankle in the first quarter, and the talented tight end never returned to the field. Although nothing has been confirmed as of yet, but it’s believed Hernandez has a high ankle sprain and could miss as many as six weeks.Will New England reach out to veteran WR Deion Branch now in an effort to compensate for the loss of Hernandez?

Heading into this season, the Patriots offense appeared more than formidable on paper, but they struggled on Sunday after the loss of Hernandez. The Patriots also seem to be preparing for life without WR Wes Welker, as his role is diminished this season. On a day when Welker set the record as the all-time leading receiver for the Patriots, he was not even a starter for the offense. Julian Edleman was in the starting lineup instead.Free agent addition Brandon Lloyd has become the lead receiver in the Patriots offense early on this year, receiving 21 targets in the first two weeks.

The Patriots offense should have easily handled the Cardinals on Sunday. New England was a 13-point favorite heading into the contest. The Patriots out gained the Cardinals on offense by 142 yards. According to ESPN Stats, Sunday’s loss was the first time since 1989 the Patriots outgained another team at home and lost.

The offensive line has become an issue for Brady. On Sunday, he was sacked four times and hit six. Speaking of broken streaks for New England, prior to Stephen Gostkowski’s miss, the kicker had made 38 straight fourth quarter kicks at home.

Aaron Hernandez plays an integral role in the Patriots offense and New England will have to adjust accordingly if he is lost for the reported six weeks. New England stocked up on tight ends this offseason, adding Daniel Fells in the offseason, but he has been inactive in the first two weeks of the season.

Two veteran tight ends are still on the free agent market, Chris Cooley and Jeremy Shockey. The Patriots might bring in one of those veterans for a workout, or perhaps New England could look to add another wide receiver. Three former Patriots players are still available, Donte Stallworth, Jabar Gaffney as well as Deion Branch.

Any move will be predicated on the health of Hernandez and his possible timetable for a return. There is no need for panic by the Patriots at this time, but they are going to need to do something to jump start their offense. There are three important games looming on the horizon; a Sunday night game in Baltimore, the following week at Buffalo and then home against the Peyton Manning led Denver Broncos. The Ravens were a dropped pass away from defeating the Patriots last season. The Bills finally recorded a win against New England last season in Buffalo, and any contest against Peyton Manning can turn into a shoot out.

If the news regarding Hernandez is as bad as it seems, look for someone to get a call for the Patriots in the coming days.

 

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