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Patriots Progress Report First quarter

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Patriots Progress Report  First quarter Keith Nordstrom/New England Patriots

There is no denying that the New England Patriots haven't started the season the way they would have liked. The Pats sit at 2-2 after the first four games of 2012; still, while Coach Bill Belichick and company would probably prefer to be sitting north of .500, there are reasons for optimism.

For instance, while New England is indeed 2-2, those two losses were by a grand total of three points. Losing to Arizona was unexpected, but it was only a two point loss a loss to a team that appears to have a defense far more ferocious than anyone thought possible. And losing by a single point to Baltimore a probable playoff team is certainly understandable, if not exactly welcome.

There are plenty of flaws in this Patriots team, but there's a lot to like as well. We'll just have to wait to see if the pros are enough to outweigh the cons. On to the Progress Report:

Offense B+

Patriots fans have grown spoiled by the decade-plus of high-quality quarterback play from Tom Brady. The day will come when Brady's skills begin to fade, but that day isn't here yet. Brady hasn't shown the flair for the dramatic that we've seen in past years, but he's still putting up Pro Bowl numbers 1,227 yards and seven touchdowns with only one interception. While the loss of tight end Aaron Hernandez certainly stings, holdover receiver Wes Welker and newcomer Brandon Lloyd are both on a 100-catch pace and tight end Rob Gronkowski remains a powerful weapon in the passing game. Add to that a reinvigorated running game featuring Stevan Ridley, Danny Woodhead and Brandon Bolden the best running game they've had in years - and things are looking up for the New England offense.

Defense C+

Grading this unit is a bit of a struggle as things stand right now. On the plus side, the team is generating tons of turnovers they've got six interceptions already this season and forced the same number of fumbles (recovering all but one). Rookie defensive end Chandler Jones leads the teams with three sacks, while linebacker Jerrod Mayo is a tackling machine. However, despite handily winning the turnover battle and generating a decent pass rush, the team is still below average in terms of points allowed. Giving up four TDs in a game doesn't matter so much when you're scoring six or seven, but this isn't 2007; this offense won't put up video game numbers. While the front seven looks fairly solid, there's a lot of work still to be done in the secondary if this team is going to win.

Special Teams C-

Kicker Stephen Gostkowski used to be one of the most reliable weapons in the Patriots arsenal; however, he's looked unsteady at times this year, missing field goals that not long ago would have seemed like forgone conclusions. Punter Zoltan Mesko, while still possessed of one of the top-five names in the NFL, isn't having a season on the field of quite that caliber. Still, he has been solid. Likewise the return game has been decent, yet uninspiring primary returners Devin McCourty (kicks) and Julian Edelman (punts) have been just okay.

Coaching B-

There has been a frustrating lack of consistency from Coach Belichick this season that fans aren't accustomed to. At times, his play calling has seemed a bit lackluster; the fault both of the team's losses can largely be laid at his feet. The coach's loss of his cool with the officials at the end of the Baltimore game however justified it may have been was jarring to see. Still, we are talking about a guy who led his team to the Super Bowl last year; there's little reason to think that Belichick and company have lost their touch.

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