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Ask PFW, Part I: Brady bashing

Tom Brady seems to be holding everyone accountable but himself. His play is inconsistent at best. Any other QB that consistently misses the wide-open receivers would be criticized much more. We need to start running the ball more frequently and not relying on Brady. Is it time to start thinking about drafting our future QB?
Craig Fricke

Is it time to let Brian Hoyer try his hand a quarterback? Brady has just not been the Tom Brady of the past. He is missing receivers, not reading coverages like he used to, and is very stiff in the pocket and not as pocket-aware as he used to be. Again, Brady missed two opportunities that could have scored touchdowns [against Denver] and again he missed Moss for a 15 yard gain that would have extended the drive. At this point, I don't think Hoyer could do any worse and it will also help determine if he is the future of the Patriots or not. Brady should be a bit more critical of himself in the post-game interviews and work to get his "mojo" back or start thinking of retiring at the end of the season. His play is mediocre and is not helping to cover the defensive shortcomings as in the past. So many missed opportunities against the Broncos.
Bill Franks

The toughest part of asking this question is keeping my emotions out of it. We all saw it and we are all asking, 'What's wrong with Brady?' Even Bill Belichick's security system of the injury report can't hide what we saw. Did Haynesworth's preseason pancake do more damage than we know? Do you think it is mental, physical, or maybe a little of both? Sometimes it looks like QB and WRs are reading different books. Who's responsible for this? Brady, Moss, and company, or Nick Caserio? Is the sky falling?
Rick VanAmburg

Is it time to call a spade a spade? If not for a fumble late in a game and a drop late in another game the Pats would be 0-4. Brady looked awful against the Broncos, let's be honest. Missed more passes than I can count. Knee injury aside, are two children and a super model maybe too much distraction for Brady? After all, he played the whole pre-season and four games of the regular season and he looked like a first year player on Sunday. Can you tell I am frustrated? Are the Pats just an average team this year? Just think we still have the Colts and Saints to play. Please help me see the light. I know you guys are always trying to be positive, but isn't it time to start to panic a little bit? Thanks for letting me vent.
Steve Lawlor, Canada

Are you done … all of you? I mean, really … it wasn't just you four, either. We've received tons more e-mails like these this week, only they were much nastier, complete with four-letter words and other foul language that isn't fit for print. Look, we all know you're frustrated, and we share those feelings, as do the players and coaches.

Every game this year has been close and hard-fought. A play or two in each game could have resulted in a win being a loss and vice versa. That's the NFL, folks. The margin between good and bad teams is miniscule, in most cases.

I love history, and in this case, history can provide some much-needed perspective. One year ago, the Indianapolis Colts were 3-2 after five games, just like the Patriots are now. Like Tom Brady, Peyton Manning was dealing with a knee injury (albeit less severe) that prevented him from playing in the preseason and affected his performance in the first half of the season. He looked absolutely awful, very un-Manning-like. The Colts, if you'll recall, should have lost their first four games. They were lucky to escape with wins over Minnesota and Houston. They were, in fact, 3-4 by the time New England came to town in early November. Yet, Indy wound up with a 12-4 record.

Now, we don't cover the Colts as closely as we do the Pats, but ask yourself this question: Do you think, amidst all that turmoil at the start of the season, that Colts fans were saying, 'Gee whiz, Peyton's not Peyton anymore. Might as well kick him to the curb and give Jim Sorgi a chance.'

I highly doubt it. So, exercise a little patience here, everyone. The emotion-filled reactions we've been getting from fans border on the immature. Brady's not at his best right now, even he'll admit, but the mistakes he and the offense are making are correctable. To suggest that he deserves anything less than the opportunity to fix them is just plain unfair to a guy who's done so much for this franchise.
Erik Scalavino

Hey guys, just wanted your thoughts on what I see as a disturbing trend on defense: members of the secondary leading the team in tackles. For the second straight week, the top 4 tacklers on the team were defensive backs. Against the Ravens, the top five were defensive backs. Maybe it's got something to do with the defensive responsibilities for the linemen/linebackers, but to me, if all four of your defensive backs have more tackles than any of the linebackers or defensive linemen do that means more tackles are being made farther downfield. As in, the opposing offense is at the very least close to breaking some big ones if not completely controlling the line of scrimmage play. Does this bother you, too?
Jason Gagnon

I applaud your effort, Jason, to analyze the statistics to try to identify a developing trend. Allow me to take your research a step further. Here are some ratios to consider: 35/25 and 27/17. The numbers on the left of the slashes represent the completed passes by Denver's Kyle Orton and Baltimore's Joe Flacco, respectively, versus the Patriots the past two weeks; those on the right are the rushing attempts by the Broncos and Ravens in those same games. The opponents' passing games have a decided advantage over their running games. So, if teams are taking more shots downfield, it's understandable that New England's defensive backs would be among the Pats' leading tacklers. If the opposite were true, and teams were rushing more than passing against New England and the Patriots d-backs were still among the tackle leaders, then I'd be concerned because that would indicate that opposing runners were getting past the front seven more often than not. So, to answer your question, no, I'm not bothered by the fact that defensive backs have been the leading tacklers the past two weeks.
Erik Scalavino

I am loving what I've been seeing from Brandon Meriweather. I was especially impressed on that one play [against Baltimore] where he flew across the field, knocking a ball from a Raven's receiver near the end zone. Do you think he will continue to develop into an even better safety? Even before the Patriots drafted Darius Butler, I was extremely excited by him (as well as Vontae Davis) and was hoping the Pats could pick up one or the other. Luckily, they did. How long until Butler has a legit chance of becoming a starting cornerback? Thanks a bunch.
*Ryan Hinerman *

Meriweather is a frustrating player to watch – mainly because of his deplorable tackling technique. As a rookie two seasons ago, his most glaring weakness was his propensity for dropping interceptions. Last year, he made great strides to correct that problem and wound up leading the team in INTs in 2008. The collective 'we' at PFW were hoping that he would make similar progress with his tackling this season.

So far, we've been greatly disappointed. Meriweather continues to tackle shadows more than the opponents who cast them. Shoulders are a terrible thing to waste, as Meriweather proves each time he throws one of his into an opposing player. He needs to be taught that his arms and hands are good things. When secured around the legs of an opponent, they can serve the wonderful purpose of impeding that player's progress and bringing him to the ground. Unfortunately, the concept appears to have escaped Meriweather like so many of the opponents he tries vainly to bring down.

If he can ever fix his tackling technique, then, yes, I think he could be a respectable safety. Butler, on the other hand, is off to a better start. He's displayed the athleticism and coverage ability for which he was so highly touted during the pre-draft process. Each time he sets foot on the field, he appears to be getting better and more comfortable as an NFL player. He saw significant reps at left corner against Denver this past weekend, so, I don't think it will be long before he finds himself in the starting lineup on a regular basis.
Erik Scalavino

I was wondering if you could tell me what Brandon Meriweather did in the Denver game that was considered taunting? At first I thought it was when he did the fist pump while standing over the receiver, but the replay showed that the official threw the flag before Brandon had even gotten off the ground. What did he do worthy of a 15-yard penalty before he was able to stand up?
Andrew Grigg

Hey PFW, love you guys! I was wondering what you guys thought of the ref who "foresaw" the taunting penalty on Meriwether. He threw the flag before the play was over. Also, why wasn't Brandon Marshall flagged? His reaction looked very similar to Meriwether's, but it also looked like Mashall ran out and purposely bumped the man who missed the tackle on the play he scored. Roger Goodell better watch out or the conspiracy theorists will start raising their ugly heads. Just saying. Thanks.
John Wohlford

That caught our eye, too. From our view in the Mile High press box, we got a good look at the play because it happened directly in front of us. Paul, Andy, and I assumed the first official threw his flag to penalize Meriweather for a helmet-to-helmet blow to Broncos receiver Eddie Royal. After the play, Meriweather pumped his fist in Royal's direction, which drew the second flag. For some reason, when the officials gathered to discuss the call, they decided to announce the taunt and not the helmet-to-helmet hit. The call caught us all by surprise. We assumed Meriweather was going to be flagged for both penalties, or, at the very least, the helmet-to-helmet. The ref's call does raise questions, but we don't really have any answers.
Erik Scalavino

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