The New England Patriots quickly rebounded from a two game losing streak and came out and destroyed the Buffalo Bills to close out the 2012 NFL first quarter. Still, with a 2-2 record, the Patriots have put up mixed results, as their first quarter report card would reflect.
The Patriots are tied atop the AFC East with the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets, although it took a huge second half effort to beat the Bills on the road on Sunday. While Tom Brady had a monster game, especially in the third and fourth quarter, it was the running game that helped pave the way to a New England victory. Not only did Stevan Ridley rush for over 100 yards, but Brandon Bolden ran for a game high 137 on the ground. This is as balanced an offense that we have seen out of the Patriots for quite some time.
The results are clear due to the balance on offense. The Patriots rank fifth in passing yards, which comes as no surprise to anyone but they are eighth in rushing yards. That is a big change from season’s past. New England has always been a pass first, pass second and run if all else fails sort of offense. The numbers this season show that is no longer the case, at least through four games.
Tom Brady: 101 attempts of 154 completions for 1,227 yards // 7 TD and 1 INT
Stevan Ridley: 74 carries for 339 yards // 3 TD
Danny Woodhead: 29 carries for 72 yards // 1 TD
Brandon Bolden: 23 carries for 152 yards // 2TD
Brandon Lloyd: 25 catches for 287 yards // 1 TD
Wes Welker: 25 catches for 380 yards // 0 TD
Rob Gronkowski: 19 catches for 260 yards // 3 TD
Julian Edelman: 10 catches for 85 yards // 1 TD
Aaron Hernandez: 6 catches for 59 yards // 1TD
The stats are a bit misleading in the receiving game, as Hernandez has only played one full game. He is expected to return very soon, and will be an instant lift to the offense. In his absence, Welker has regained a big role in the passing game. Lloyd has been more of a short game threat, but he should continue to develop great chemistry with Brady as the season progresses.
One weak point over the past two games has actually been Stephen Gostkowski, who has missed three big kicks over the past two games, including one that could have helped the Patriots defeat the Baltimore Ravens in week 3. Provided he turns things around, the Patriots should only get better on offense.
Another sign that this is a different New England team is the improved play of the defense. While they still have many things to fix, the Patriots have come up with a few big plays. They continue to allow far too many passing yards per game, but the rush defense has been fairly solid, thanks in part to the play of their two first round draft picks in Chandler Jones and Dont’a Hightower. With Vince Wilfork up front and Jerrod Mayo as a force at linebacker, the Patriots should be able to cause a few turnovers.
At just 2-2, the Patriots may be seen as a disappointment to some. But when you consider that their two losses came against teams who are a combined 7-1, and that those two losses came by a combined total of 3 points, this is still a very dangerous Patriots team who should contend for not only the division, but also the conference, as the 2012 NFL season progresses.
With a balanced attack on offense and a defense that still needs to show signs of improvement, the 2012 New England Patriots have earned a B through the first quarter.