Tue, Apr 29, 2014 at 7:19 PM
Sunday Wrap: Bucs, QB in staredown
addCustomPlayer('152y96u13ru201ikqtvigudsqq', 'C6D065C213A84966E0440021281A8A86', '17d5c0s6ag1hr1vrdxxa20hmf6', 620, 429, 'perf152y96u13ru201ikqtvigudsqq', 'eplayer17');Tom Brady and the New England Patriots are 4-0 after Sunday night’s 30-23 escape in Atlanta. If you haven’t noticed, that’s the same record of the AFC’s wowing powerhouse, Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos.While Manning’ s Broncos lead the entire NFL in style points that impress the non-existent voters, the Patriots just turned in their first Patriots-like offensive performance of the season. They needed every bit of Brady’s 316 passing yards and a combined 132 rushing yards to outscore and outlast the Falcons. Here’s the scary thing: Unlike the Broncos, the Patriots still haven’t showcased their quarterback with his weapons at their best.MORE: Recap | Week 4's best images | Seahawks among the unbeatensThose rookie wide receivers can't be dismissed. Undrafted Kenbrell Thompkins (6 catches, 127 yards, TD), the best of the bunch, keeps getting better and more trustworthy as Brady’s big-play go-to guy.That underachieving running game? It’s gotten a needed boost from LeGarrette Blount and Brandon Bolden the past two weeks.There were reports earlier in the week that Brady’s two best veteran targets, tight end Rob Gronkowski (back/forearm) and Danny Amendola (groin), had progressed well from their injuries and were closer to returning. Every game the Patriots can win while that pair can heal and get closer to 100 percent, this team becomes a little more dangerous down the line.Unlike a lot of teams that are going through some offensive adversity, the Patriots have the luxury of leaning on two strong backbones.Tom Brady carved up the Atlanta Falcons' secondary, leading the Patriots to another win and a 4-0 record. (AP photo)Brady can connect with even the most unheralded receivers when his fine offensive line is both giving him time to throw (no sacks on Sunday) and run blocking at such a high level to open up the play-action passing game. And with coach Bill Belichick’s improved defense, there is less pressure on Brady to lead a 35- or 40-point attack. The Falcons were the latest to learn the Patriots are stingiest to opponents when it counts the most—in the red zone.VIDEO: Falcons fall shortWhere the Patriots are now is far from where they want to be, given the high, Super Bowl standards of Brady and Belichick. They know the Miami Dolphins, 3-0 going into Monday night, will be hanging around in the AFC East race for a while, and they need to take care of division business first.The Patriots have the perfect record, and they have time to be the “more perfect” team. The Falcons were a great litmus test for New England’s season trajectory, and the next two weeks (at Bengals, vs. Saints) will provide two more welcome challenges.Four wins in four games in the NFL, however accomplished, is off the charts. Just look at the fact that only Denver, Kansas City, Seattle and whoever wins tomorrow’s Miami-New Orleans game will be in the Patriots’ elite company.For now, it looks great, and the more Gronkowski and Amendola start to feel more like gravy than necessity, it will only get better. Before Brady’s Patriots get their shot to see if they stack up with Manning’s Broncos, they have six more games in seven weeks.The storyline has gone from how Brady will get by with all these new guys to whether, because of how he’s getting along with those guys, if what he’s done is more impressive than Manning’s historic all-time start (16 TDs to zero interceptions) with an all-star fleet.You can bet when the Patriots get their shot at the Broncos at home on Nov. 24, they won’t be concerned with style points. They’ll trust that Brady will help them score one more than Denver.
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