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News Blitz 9/26: Is Tom Brady in decline?

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Is Tom Brady in decline? That's the topic that Skip Bayless and Stephen A. Smith chose to focus on yesterday on ESPN's 'First Take'. Skip said that Brady's been "pretty aweful" compared to his usual standard, but Stephen A. called the argument disrespectful to Brady and put most of the blame on his offensive line.

While the Patriots are busy preparing for the Chiefs, Sterling Xie of the Bleacher Report recaped what the experts are saying about New England so far this year. He says that it's too soon to tell if this Patriots team is a true Super Bowl contender or not. He offers his thoughts on the Patriots offensive line, the defense, and Darrelle Revis.

"In truth, it is more accurate to say that Revis has merely been very good rather than transcendent," writes Xie. "Between Revis and Devin McCourty, the Patriots have two excellent safety valves who are capable of limiting big passing plays through their range and exemplary awareness. That is where Revis' true value lies."

As for the offensive line, the team may have found an answer to their problems in Bryan Stork. Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald says that Stork has a good chance to start at center, which in turn would push Dan Connolly back to guard -- a position he's more comfortable playing.

"Stork had a chance to win the job early in camp but was derailed with an injury, and he has enough reps under his belt to take on more responsibility," explains Howe. "The combination of Stork at center and Connolly at right guard appeared to be an improvement for 15 late-game snaps against the Raiders."

The Patriots must fix their offensive line issues this week, otherwise Kansas City's Tamba Hali and Justin Houston will have a field day on Tom Brady. ESPN Boston's Mike Reiss explains that one way to help the Patriots o-line stop Hali and Houston is to use two running-back sets. With 9:48 remaining in the 4th quarter against the Raiders, the Patriots lined up two running backs on other side of Brady and had them chip the edge rushers before running their routes. The result was a cleaner pocket for Brady, which allowed him to step up and find Rob Gronkowski for a 22-yard completion.

"In having a running back chip often, there is a sacrifice because the player isn't getting into his route as quickly as he could otherwise," explains Reiss. "But if the reward is slowing down a ferocious rush, it's worth devoting resources to it, based on the struggles the Patriots have had protecting Brady."

Last night on Comcast SportsNet's "New England Tailgate" Steve DeOssie and Fred Smerlas highlighted the keys to stopping the Chiefs offense. Smerlas talked about Alex Smith, while DeOssie focused on Jamaal Charles, who is expected to return from injury this week.

"Any time you have a guy that talented," said DeOssie. "not just the receiving, but the fact that he runs the ball and is an automatic threat. This guy is one of the best players in the NFL right now. Alex Smith being a good game manager needs a guy like that in his stable."

With the Patriots getting set to play their first Monday Night Football game of the year, Matthew Geagon of CBS Boston listed 8 of the more memorable Monday Night Football games the Patriots have played in. Last season's Panthers game made the list as well as two Dolphins games and two Broncos games. Check it out!

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