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Patriots Progress Report - Halftime

November 9, 2011
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Patriots Progress Report - Halftime AP photo

The 2011 season is proving to be quite a roller coaster ride for the New England Patriots. This team has Jekyll and Hyde written all over it. Sure the team is sitting at 5-3, but they've lost their last two games. They've got one of the most prolific offenses in the league (although that squad has sputtered a bit in recent weeks), but they've also got a defense that, at least at the halfway point, appears to have the potential to be historically inept.

Of course, there's still plenty of football to be played. While the offense likely isn't quite as good as it looked early in the season, odds are that the defense isn't nearly as bad.

On to the Progress Report:

Offense - A

It seems odd to give an 'A' grade to a 5-3 team, but the New England offense sits atop the AFC in both yards per game and points per game. That's a powerhouse offense. Quarterback Tom Brady continues to lead the charge with another great season, though he has come back down to earth in recent weeks. Receiver Wes Welker continues to produce at a record-setting pace. Tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez have also proven to be elite offensive weapons. Despite a mediocre running game, the Patriots offense remains a threat to score on any given possession.

Defense - D-

At least they're trying; I simply don't have the heart to give them an 'F.' That said, the overall defensive effort from the Pats has been abysmal. Case in point: New England has given up the sixth-most points per game in the NFL this season and they're lucky to have done that well. After all, they are dead last in yards allowed per game. Dead last. Between injuries and ineptitude, the Patriots simply haven't been able to muster much of a challenge to opposing offenses. With the exception of a few individuals such as Kyle Arrington and Vince Wilfork, the New England defense is an utter disaster.

Special Teams - B-

This was a 'B' right up until kicker Stephen Gostkowski shanked an easy field goal and Julian Edelman muffed a punt during the game against the Giants. Still, Gostkowski is ordinarily one of the most reliable kickers in the league. Punter Zoltan Mesko has been doing a solid job in the field position game. Meanwhile, Edelman has been decent as a return man aside from a few hiccups. The coverage squads on kicks and punts have been good as well - these groups are consistent performers doing strong work.

Coaching - B-

I wanted to give the coaching staff a higher mark, but I can't go any higher after watching this defense continue to falter. The offense is impressive - really impressive - but while outscoring opponents will work just fine during the regular season, coach Bill Belichick needs to figure out how to stop somebody if he wants to advance deep into the postseason. Hopefully, the coaching staff can find a better way to integrate the scheme and personnel on the defensive side. As far as the offense? All set. Leave it like it is and enjoy a season of 450 points or more. Fix the defense and this grade goes much higher.

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