The New England Patriots improved to 5-0 Sunday, taking down the winless Washington Redskins 33-7.
The margin of victory wasn’t indicative of the game itself, a tightly-contested affair heading into the start of the second half before the Patriots blew it open. New England continues to struggle, and they have no one to blame but themselves.
The Patriots may have beaten Washington, but there are deep concerns following wins against the Skins and the Buffalo Bills, specifically regarding the offense. Tom Brady and co. turned in perhaps his worst performance of the decade in Week 4, and followed it up with a (relative) clunker in Week 5.
Brady threw for 348 yards but was forced to air it out more than 30 times in the first half, mostly because the Patriots couldn’t get a run game going. With only four rushes in the first half against a mainly-zone team in Washington, the Patriots brought out the ground-and-pound early and often in the second half, and the wheels completely fell off the wagon in the nation’s capital.
But the fact remains that the offense continues to struggle. And with injuries continuing to take their toll, it is still a major question mark.
Philip Dorsett left Sunday’s game with a hamstring injury. Julian Edelman’s ribs continue to be a mystery, and Josh Gordon still looks a step slow. While New England has explored the receiver market, the argument could be made that the bigger issue is up front, where an offensive line under siege has kept Brady dancing. The Patriots can’t afford to let the 42-year-old Brady take hits, as well as not get a push in the run game. Trent Williams aside, New England needs to develop one of their backup linemen enough to be serviceable or look outside for more help before the trade deadline.
Josh McDaniels needs to figure out the play calling earlier because the Patriots can’t fall behind a better team late in the season and expect to dig themselves out of it easily, especially without a kicker.
On defense, they are relatively set. Jerod Mayo, Steven Belichick, and his father can keep them focused on the task at hand. They just can’t afford the mental lapses on plays like the long runs made by Frank Gore and Steven Sims Jr., the latter of which resulted in the first defensive touchdown given up all year.
The Patriots are the defending champions, with a head coach that is running circles around his contemporaries. If they play their style, no one can beat them. But it might be their lack of being to do just that, that might be their undoing. Mental mistakes, lack of execution early, and questionable offensive playcalling need to be fixed before the Patriots hit the gauntlet of their schedule, or they might be exposed against stiffer competition than the dog meat they have faced so far.