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Pats Have Big Tests Ahead

The Patriots have quite a November schedule ahead of them, including both NFL teams that are currently undefeated, the Colts and the Saints--both of them on the road, by the way. This is after they started their November with a big win over division rival Miami this past Saturday and still have to play the Jets again in another two weeks. They are looking pretty good, but how will they fare the rest of the month?

I believe that more than anything this answer lies on how well they do in the red zone. Recently, they have been able to move the ball with ease on everyone's defense. However, they end up kicking field goals after the majority of their drives stall before they reach the end zone. The Patriots may be considered a Super Bowl contender, but not if they can't score touchdowns. For instance, against Miami this past Sunday, they scored on 6 different drives. They only ended up with 27 points though, as they kicked 4 field goals. Yes, they are blessed to have a kicker as accurate as Gostkowski--whenever he attempts a kick, it's like money in the bank. However, I don't like when teams rely on kickers period. If it were up to me, football would be all touchdowns and two-point conversions; no field goals and no extra points. Yet, I won't complain as the Pats seem to have an advantage over most teams as their kicking game is so good.

The one other thing that concerns me about the Pats besides their inability to finish drives with 7, rather than 3, points, is the inability of their defense to make faster adjustments. The two times that the Dolphins came away with touchdowns, the Patriots were gashed by the Dolphins unconventional offensive sets. Whether it was the wildcat offense where running back Ronnie Brown takes the snaps, or the Dolphins using back-up quarterback Pat White to run the option, the Patriots had trouble adjusting on the fly. The Patriots did end up getting some big stops when they needed them at the end of the game, but their defense should have been better prepared for the unconventional stuff that the Dolphins threw at them. With the success Miami had against them last year with the wildcat, they had to know that they were going to see plenty of it.

A great thing that I noticed with the Pats heading into the 2nd half of their schedule: an improved pass rush. It is still not great but the difference in the amount of pressure they are putting on the opposing quarterback compared to earlier in the season is like night and day. As we all know, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees will shred a defense if you give them plenty of time to throw. Neither of them are great out of the pocket though, if the Patriots can really come with it.

Everyone probably has to agree that the highlight of the Miami game was the way that Randy Moss straight up played the Fins' Vontae Davis on a few occasions. I have to give Davis some credit though, particularly being a rookie. He made an amazing play on the Pats first drive, intercepting Brady on a long pass to Moss--a difficult play that Moss routinely makes look easy, but that time Davis got the better of him. However, Davis had to know that Brady was going to continue throwing his way. Davis actually had great coverage on the incredible one-handed catch that Moss made (although Moss makes these plays all the time and makes them look easy, they are still incredible). Moss really had something for him though when he scored in the second half. The stiff-arm he gave Davis to free himself to be able to run away from him and score, once he made the catch, was one of the best I've ever seen. Thanks to my DVR, I must have watched that play about 20 times, and I enjoyed it more and more each replay.

--Jesse C.

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