After three weeks the Patriots offense looked lost. Back-to-back defeats on the road in Jacksonville and Detroit left the team at 1-2, and with Julian Edelman out serving his suspension the offense was abysmal.
Then a couple of developments the following week against Miami seemed to turn things around. First, rookie Sony Michel began piling up yards on the ground. Then newcomer Josh Gordon showed flashes of how he might impact the offense moving forward.
Since then Edelman returned and the offense has lit up scoreboards in 2007-like fashion. The Patriots scored 38, 38 and 43 points in the three-game winning streak and now appear poised to continue that in the second half of the season.
With all seemingly returning to normal in Foxborough, it seems like a good time to look back and try to determine how we got here. This week's Samsonite Make Your Case question is: Which positive development has been the biggest surprise?
PFW's Andy Hart says ...
Sony Michel and the running game
I never questioned Michel's ability and I loved him as a first-round pick the night they made the call. But I also didn't expect the Patriots to have such a committed and productive ground game on a consistent basis.
Michel has done a great job of carving up defenses both between the tackles and on the edges. He's been consistently productive and that has given the offense an entirely different dimension. During the first three games the ground game wasn't very good, and teams could safely flood the field with extra defensive backs and make life tough on Tom Brady and the offense. Now Michel is making teams pay for that approach, and the passing game in benefitting greatly as a result.
It's been a while since the Patriots have been able to consistently run the ball without occasional big plays skewing the numbers. Michel has generally been able to pick up positive yards on virtually all of his carries, and that has allowed the offense to stay out of tough situations.
Even though I was high on Michel from the start, his production has been a pleasant surprise.
PFW's Paul Perillo says ...
Josh Gordon's quick assimilation
To be clear, my pick doesn't have much to do with any production Gordon has provided thus far. I knew he was an immensely talented receiver before he ever arrived in Foxborough, so his performance has not been a surprise nor overly impressive thus far either.
But listening to Gordon talk about how excited he is to fit it and be a part of a winning organization has caught me a bit off guard and I believe that's been a big part of the team's success of late. Tom Brady speaks of Gordon with respect and he has shown trust in the receiver at times in their games together. That doesn't always happen with Brady and certainly not for several veteran receivers in the past.
Gordon may not prove to be the dynamic presence he once was but the early signs of him fitting in with the program have been overwhelmingly positive. If he can continue to work hard and stay out of trouble, my guess is his presence in the offense will continue to rise.
While I thought the trade was a risk worth taking, I wasn't expecting things to go this smoothly.
Now it's your turn to cast a vote in this week's Samsonite Make Your Case poll question.