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Patriots Progress Report 2014 Third Quarter

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All things considered, the past four games couldn't have worked out much better for the New England Patriots.

The Pats went 3-1 in the 2014 NFL season's third quarter, with only this past Sunday's 26-21 loss to the Green Bay Packers marring an otherwise scintillating month that featured victories over the Denver Broncos, the Indianapolis Colts and the Detroit Lions. Dominant victories at that not one of those three teams finished within three touchdowns of the Patriots.

Sure, it isn't the four-win stretch that led up to the season's halfway mark, but it still leaves New England sitting comfortable atop the AFC East with a 9-3 record. And the final month looks considerably less daunting; after a game in San Diego against the Chargers, the Pats close with games against division rivals, hosting Miami, visiting the New York Jets and hosting Buffalo in the season's final game.

Despite their relative struggles in Green Bay, this is a Patriots team that looks to be in excellent shape going into the playoffs.

On to the Progress Report.

Offense A-

Yes, Tom Brady's numbers went from otherworldly to merely excellent he passed for just shy of 300 yards per game with 10 touchdowns against four interceptions. Those are still winning numbers, though we shouldn't be surprised if things bump back up in the final month. Tight end Rob Gronkowski continues to impress, with 35 catches for 352 yards not to mention two TD catches and some hellacious blocking. Receivers Julian Edelman and Brandon LaFell have also posted strong numbers. On the rushing side, we got treated to a variety of quality performances Jonas Gray's monster game against Indy chief among them. Over the last four games, this team averaged 35 points per game and that's with a relatively low 21 against the Packers maintaining their status as one of the NFL's highest scoring squads.

Defense B

Despite dealing with a rash of injuries to important players, the New England defense has acquitted itself nicely over the past four weeks. They've given up an average of 19 points a game to some of the most productive offenses in the league. Their overall numbers on pass defense have gone up, but some of that can be attributed to teams playing from behind. On the flip side, they've been stouter against the run, but again teams have been throwing the ball more against them. Guys like Jamie Collins, Dont'a Hightower and Rob Ninkovich have stepped up big, while cornerback Darrelle Revis has also been strong. By the numbers, this hasn't been a great defense, but it continues to be good enough.

Special Teams B+

With the offense performing as well as it has, it's no surprise to see that Stephen Gostkowski's field goal numbers dropped over the past four games. Still, he did make five out of six kicks over that stretch and continued to be one of the better kickoff men in the league. Young punter Ryan Allen continues to find his way, with a performance that ranks him more or less squarely in the middle of the league. Julian Edelman continues to be one of the game's more productive punt returners, while Danny Amendola has shown flashes of excellence returning kickoffs. Add to that some fairly good kick coverage and you've got a unit that has been one of the better collectives in the league.

Coaching A-

Perhaps the most noteworthy coaching decision that Bill Belichick made this month involved running back Jonas Gray. During the week following Gray's shredding of the Colts for 199 yards and four touchdowns, he overslept and missed a team practice. Gray didn't see the field the next game. It's Belichick's philosophy writ large no one is bigger than the team. New England has been playing excellent football for over two months now; the coach has once again found a way to get his team to perform at a high level.

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