New England fans are used to two things: a potent offense with Tom Brady at the helm, and a defense that shines under coach Belichick regardless of the personnel available. We know that two things have not changed; Brady is still the Pro Bowl passer with a lot of life left in his arm, and Belichick is still a master at coaching up a terrific defensive plan.
Of course, New Englanders are also used to winning. After decades of disappointment and low expectations, we finally have something to cheer about: a shot at the Super Bowl every season. You could even say that some of us have become spoiled with the team's success over more than a decade. Prior to 1993, the franchise appeared in the playoffs in only 6 seasons; only one of those resulted in a Super Bowl appearance- a lopsided loss to the dominant Chicago Bears in '85.
But since the "new era", they have appeared 13 times with 6 Super Bowl trips and 3 victories. Needless to say, we figured out the winning formula.
So, it is no surprise that an early loss to what most considered an inferior team has brought criticism of perhaps an unjust nature. Concerns began before the season started with the notable absence of Brian Waters, as well as the retirement of Matt Light. Bleacher Report commented back in August that things would be different and they seem to have hit the nail on the head.
Brady's protection is not what it used to be. The last vestiges of his Pro Bowl security team are recovering from injury and may never be the same again. This leaves unproven youngsters to block some pretty impressive defensive beasts and give Tom enough time to find his weapons; and with Hernandez out for about 6 weeks, his targets have been reduced as well. The return of Deion Branch and potential re-emergence of Wes Welker should help in that part of the game.
We all know that the Patriots are a pass first team, and the week 2 performance seems to justify the attitude that an improved run game will not be enough to give the Patriot offense that blitzkrieg effect that saws the team break the Viking's scoring record with 582 points, Brady throw 50 TDs, and Randy Moss catch 23 TD balls.
But I am not ready to condemn the team to a losing record just yet. It would be jumping to conclusions to throw in the towel so soon. Bill and Tom still know how to win and the basic tools are there. With the hard work and determination that all involved are putting in, we can be pretty confident that the Patriots will continue their new tradition of winning and see another playoff run in 2012.