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Monday, October 21, 2013
Upon Further Review: Patriots Week 7

By Mike Reiss

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- A review of four hot issues following the New England Patriots' 30-27 overtime loss to the Jets:

Tom Brady
Tom Brady's struggles came at a bad time for the limping Patriots.
Tom Brady and offensive struggles: We led off the "Upon Further Review" feature last week with the subtitle "Tom Brady magic" after he led the team's game-winning touchdown drive against the Saints. But the magic act did a disappearing act against the Jets. Credit, first and foremost, to a tough Jets defense that held the Patriots to 1-of-12 on third down. It was a day when the undermanned defense needed Brady and Co. to step up and carry the day, and the quarterback didn't deliver. It isn't all on him, but one of the defining characteristics of his play -- accuracy -- isn't showing up consistently.

Special teams coaching: Bill Belichick often says that his opinion on NFL rules isn't important; what's truly important is that everyone understands them and they are coached accordingly. This is a topic to revisit after the Patriots were penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct on Nick Folk's 56-yard field goal in overtime when rookie defensive tackle Chris Jones was flagged for pushing teammate Will Svitek into the formation. After the game, Belichick shared his viewpoint that he didn't think it was a penalty because Jones wasn't on the second level, meaning he initially aligned on the line of scrimmage. The league's vice president of officiating, Dean Blandino, said otherwise. This was the first time the penalty has been called since the rule was implemented this season. On Monday, Belichick took accountability, saying: "Obviously we are wrong."

Injuries on defense show up: The Patriots have lost defensive tackle Vince Wilfork and linebacker Jerod Mayo to season-ending injuries, and with cornerback Aqib Talib (hip) missing Sunday's game, that left them without three of their best players. It showed at times, as the Jets were 6-of-6 on third down to open the game. In the end, the defense made enough plays to give the team a chance to win, but the personnel losses make one wonder if they can sustain it.

Inconsistent offensive line: Returning all five starters along the offensive line, it seems fair to say that the unit should be the strength of the offense. But when the game swung in the third quarter, a big part of it was because of protection breakdowns up front. Better play is needed on a more consistent basis from the big guys up front: left tackle Nate Solder, left guard Logan Mankins, center Ryan Wendell, right guard Dan Connolly and right tackle Sebastian Vollmer.