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Patriots Progress Report 2016 Second Quarter

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New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) throws a pass to Danny Amendola for a touchdown during the first half of an NFL football game against the Buffalo Bills Sunday, Oct. 30, 2016, in Orchard Park, N.Y. New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) throws a pass to Danny Amendola for a touchdown during the first half of an NFL football game against the Buffalo Bills Sunday, Oct. 30, 2016, in Orchard Park, N.Y. (AP photo/Adrian Kraus)

I think we all suspected this was how it was going to go.

The New England Patriots spent the first quarter of the season without star quarterback Tom Brady. Now that he has finally served his suspension and put the ludicrousness of DeflateGate in the rearview mirror, Brady is back and over the past four games, he showed the NFL just what that means.

The Patriots have won all four of its games with Brady at the helm. They have put the rest of the league on notice that any path to the Lombardi Trophy is almost certainly going to go through New England. Honestly, it's tough to think of many ways that the last month could have gone any better. The team goes into its Week 9 bye calm, comfortable and firing on all cylinders.

The scary part is that they might actually get even better.

On to the Progress Report.


Offense A

The Pats have managed to put up an average of just under 33 points per game with Brady at the helm. Brady who has averaged right around 330 yards passing per game to go with 12 TDs and zero interceptions has been masterful, but he's had plenty of help. Rob Gronkowski's recovery from injury has been huge for the offense he's gone for 16 catches and over 360 yards and two TDs in his last three and his fellow tight end Martellus Bennett has had some huge games. Receiver Julian Edelman has been a steady hand, with 22 catches in his last four, while Danny Amendola and Chris Hogan have all contributed in the passing game. As per usual, LeGarrette Blount has been solid as a rock as the primary running back.

Defense A-

There's no question that the defense's work has been largely overshadowed by the offensive fireworks accompanying Brady's comeback, but this group has quietly offered up a performance that borders on excellent. It's typical of a strong New England defense while they're middle of the pack in terms of yardage allowed, they are definitely a bend-don't-break group they've allowed just under 18 points per game over their last four. There haven't been a lot of eye-popping numbers coming from individual players, but the overall performance has been exceptional. Linebackers Jamie Collins and Dont'a Hightower have led the way, while Logan Ryan, Devin McCourty and Malcolm Butler have been solid in the secondary. The defensive line has been under-the-radar good as well.

Special Teams B+

Kicker Stephen Gostkowski remains a significant weapon for New England, but he's lost that air of automatic reliability he carried for so long. He's still a great kicker five for six on field goals in his last four but he's also missed a couple of extra points recently. Still, he's continued his mastery of distance control, minimizing touchbacks and forcing loads of short returns. Punter Ryan Allen has been fine, allowing returns on just five of his last 16 punts and none in his last two games while averaging around 42 yards per punt. The Patriots return game has been unspectacular, but respectable; likewise the kick coverage.

Coaching A

We did away with all of the pluses this time around. That's not to say that Bill Belichick's coaching acumen has diminished in any way; rather, it's because his work comes off as a bit less impressive when he has Tom Brady running the show as opposed to Jimmy Garoppolo or Jacoby Brissett. When a team is working as well as this one is, a lot of credit goes to the coaching staff; Belichick and coordinators Josh McDaniel and Matt Patricia have done some fantastic work helping put this team into position to win. Frankly, there's no reason to expect anything other than more of the same.

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