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Patriots Progress Report 2015 Third Quarter

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AP Photo/Elise Amendola AP Photo/Elise Amendola

What a difference two weeks can make.

Just a fortnight ago, the New England Patriots were riding high, sporting a shiny 10-0 record and prompting talk from fans about a possible undefeated season. After a pair of defeats one not that surprising (the Broncos in Denver) and one very much so (the Eagles at home), the Patriots now sit at 10-2. They're still sitting atop the AFC East, but the road to a top seed and a first-round bye is looking a whole lot rougher.

There's no question that injuries have played a part in the team's recent dip in performance. But the truth is that every team in the NFL is dealing with hurt players at this point. Losing in Denver was one thing, but dropping a game to the hapless Eagles at Gillette, no less is troublesome.

It has been a tough month; Pats fans can only hope that the final four games of the regular season play out a little better.

Offense B

While the team still sits near the top of the league in scoring for the season, the last month has seen a significant drop-off. The team scored just shy of 25 points a game over the last four way down from their average to that point. Tom Brady has been good (300 yards per game, nine TDs against four interceptions) but not great, though a fair amount of that can be attributed to the loss of receiver Julian Edelman for most of the last month and the absence of tight end Rob Gronkowski for the last game-plus. LeGarrette Blount has been passable, but the running game doesn't frighten anyone. Guys like Danny Amendola and Brandon LaFell have tried to step up, but their respective skill sets aren't quite up to snuff.

Defense B-

This group spent the first half of the season performing in a solid, though unspectacular fashion. However, with the downturn in the offense, the defense's margin for error has evaporated. They've allowed 26 points per game over the last four nearly a touchdown more than their season average. Lineman Chandler Jones a legitimate force in the season's first half has quieted significantly. The secondary, led by Logan Ryan and Malcolm Butler, has been soft. The return to health of linebackers Jamie Collins and Don't'a Hightower is vital going forward; the New England linebacking corps should be one of its defensive strengths. This unit has been doing more breaking than bending over the past month.

Special Teams C

It was bound to happen eventually; Stephen Gostkowski couldn't be reasonably expected to make all of his kicks forever. He still went five-for-six, but his scoring pace dropped along with the rest of the offense. Punter Ryan Allen has been busy and not all that effective, booming 27 slightly-less-than-decent punts over the past four games (that blocked punt from the Eagles was especially ugly). The return game remains adequate, but not much more than that. And in terms of the coverage the New England special teams units are usually pretty solid, but they did not look strong this month. Expect them to look better in the weeks to come.

Coaching B

There's no doubt that some questionable decisions have been made by Belichick over the past few games. One could argue that this grade is too high after all, doesn't 2-2, the very definition of mediocrity, cry out for a 'C'? Maybe it does at that, but it should be noted that the Patriots have remained competitive despite a number of injuries to key personnel. Still, this team has done more with less in the past; while some of the difficulties of the last month can be chalked up to bad luck, there's no doubt that Belichick and his staff bear plenty of responsibility as well. It's all about bouncing back and getting things corrected; this next month is where the coach will really earn his check.

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