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CHAD FINN

Just thinking: How to gauge 5-0 Patriots? Defense is legit, but offense has issues

Jamie Collins knocked the ball loose from Redskins quarterback Colt McCoy on this fourth-quarter sack, although McCoy recovered the loose ball.
Jamie Collins knocked the ball loose from Redskins quarterback Colt McCoy on this fourth-quarter sack, although McCoy recovered the loose ball.Barry Chin/Globe Staff

Thirty-three thoughts on the Patriots’ 33-7 win over the Redskins . . .

1. As far as I can tell, this is what we know about the 5-0 Patriots after Sunday’s 33-7 victory over the Redskins. The defense is phenomenal, with the possibility of being an all-timer. The offense has work to do, its quarterback too often under siege, but it found something that clicked in the second half that included remembering to involve Sony Michel; and it’s tough to gauge how much all of this means since it has played two quality opponents at best (Buffalo, maybe Pittsburgh) so far.

2. It’s too often a grind right now for the offense, but the otherworldly defense gives them all the time they need to get it right. The defense held Colt McCoy and the Redskins to 220 yards and 11 first downs. It forced two turnovers, sacked McCoy six times, and allowed just 155 yards after Stephen Sims’s 65-yard run put the Redskins up, 7-0, in the first quarter. McCoy ended up throwing for just 119 yards, further confirming that his win as a Brown against the Patriots in 2010 was an all-time fluke.

3. Brady ended up with very good numbers, completing 28 of 42 passes for 348 yards and three touchdowns, with one interception. But given how frank he can be, it’s no surprise he was lamenting the slow start — the Patriots led just 12-7 at halftime — and some lost opportunities once it was over.

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4. Still, it’s amazing how high the bar remains — and how often he still clears it — for a 42-year-old quarterback playing behind an offensive line that isn’t protecting him especially well. Brady was sacked four times.

5. The Patriots probably asked too much of Brady, at least early. He threw 31 times in the first half, while the running game provided just 19 yards on seven carries before getting going in the second half (27 carries for 130 yards overall, including 91 by Michel).

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6. Brady looked more like Brady in the second half, capping a 7-play, 75-yard drive to start the half with a gorgeous 29-yard touch pass to Brandon Bolden for a touchdown and a 19-7 lead. (Extra point: Good!) It’s funny though, when he stepped left to dodge pressure and let it fly, my first thought was that he was throwing it away.

7. I don’t get why the Patriots didn’t run more from the get-go. The Redskins entered with the 29th-ranked run defense in the league, allowing 4.7 yards per attempt and 149.5 yards per game on the ground. This seemed like the perfect time to make some positive gains with the running game rather than waiting until the second half.

Related: Patriots look much better in second half, but offensive line is a concern

8. Michel did have arguably his best run of the season midway through the third quarter, breaking through the Redskins defense for a 25-yard gain. His patience was notable — pausing Le’Veon Bell-like to wait for an opening — then making a nifty cut before breaking loose.

9. Thought maybe he could have attempted to run over Nicholson rather than letting him push him out of bounds, but even with that minor gripe it was a solid A-minus run.

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10. Michel did the honors in capping that drive, breaking off a 14-yard touchdown run in which he shook off a would-be tackler to get into the end zone. Later, he picked up 12 yards on third and 4 to keep an eventual touchdown drive alive in Redskins territory. He’s a good back. Nice to finally see some results confirming it.

11. The Patriots defense came into the game having forced a league-best 10 turnovers in four games, but all 10 were interceptions. That changed in the second quarter when Jamie Collins got his weekly (if not more) turnover, recovering a fumble on the Redskins 16 with 6:09 left in the second quarter. He later added a sack.

12. But the primary credit on the play goes to Jonathan Jones, who sucker-punched the football loose from Redskins receiver Trey Quinn after an 8-yard reception. Jones’s technique on that should get a nice review from Belichick during this week’s film review.

13. Brady and the Patriots offense took the gift and turned it into . . . well, a gift right back to the Redskins. Brady took his lumps in the first half — the Redskins sacked him three times, usually with just a three-man rush — and that seemed to be in his mind on this play, Josh Allen-ing a throw off his backfoot and hitting Redskins cornerback Montae Nicholson in stride along the left sideline.

14. That’s the second straight week Brady has made a terrible throw in the red zone that ended up getting picked off. Last Sunday, it was the Bills’ Micah Hyde picking him off in the end zone. That one was worse than Nicholson’s pick — he didn’t have a receiver anywhere near open on last week’s mistake — but it’s puzzling to see him make these type of mistakes.

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15. It’s no longer a surprise when the best player on the field comes from the Patriots defense. Sunday it was Dont’a Hightower, who in the first half alone had three tackles for a loss and a sack in which he made a beeline from about 10 yards away for the hopeless McCoy. Very reminiscent of Kyle Van Noy’s memorable sack of Jared Goff in Super LIII.

16. Hightower might end up following Van Noy as the AFC Defensive Player of the Week. He split another sack with Michael Bennett in the second half, and nearly (should have) had a pick-six when he jumped the route on a McCoy throw into the flat. He dropped the gimme, but a pass defensed still looks good on the stat sheet.

17. Brady is obviously in his own category when it comes to indispensability, but Julian Edelman’s importance cannot be overstated, either. We know this, but it’s worth reiterating given his performance Sunday and what this struggling — at least by Brady era standards — offense might look like without him.

18. Edelman, who scored the Patriots’ first touchdown on a 6-yard pass to cap an six-play, 75-yard drive in the first quarter, finished with eight catches on nine targets for 110 yards and touchdown. He was typically productive despite clutching his ribs after virtually every play in which he was involved.

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19. Edelman also picked up a crucial first down on a third-and-8 pass interference call in the second quarter, a play in which he hesitated slightly as the ball approached to draw contact and the flag. Veteran move, and the kind of savvy play Brady has not been getting from his other receivers.

20. Mike Nugent, signed this week after Stephen Gostkowski went on injured reserve with a hip injury, quickly fit the narrative of the kicking game this season by missing his first extra-point attempt as a Patriot, but ended up having a solid game, going 2-for-2 on field goals and making his last three extra points. He gets the job for another week.

21. Five games into the season, the Patriots have five missed extra points this season, their most since 1988, when Teddy Garcia went 11 for 16 — that’s 68.8 percent, which is not good — and Jason Staurovsky was 14 of 15 for a total of six misses.

22. How bad has it been? Even Scott “Missin’” Sisson made all 15 of his extra-point attempts in the 1993 season. He was 14 of 26 on field goals before Bill Parcells brought in ol’ reliable Matt Bahr.

23. Nugent did make amends, giving the Patriots a 9-7 lead with a 37-yard field goal at 10:35 of the second quarter, then added another 23-yarder right before halftime. Had he missed either of those, I would have been researching ways to get practice-squadder Younghoe Koo on the roster for the second half.

24. Don’t know about you, but I was willing to put a mental asterisk on the only touchdown the Patriots’ defense allowed in its first four games, a plunge by Josh Allen last week in which the ball got knocked loose a millisecond after he crossed the plane of the goal line. That was a tough way to see that streak broken.

25. But the Redskins got a legit TD early Sunday, with the Redskins’ Steven Sims breaking loose for a 65-yard scoring run on their second possession of the game. It was a terrific run by Sims. It was also his only carry of the first half, and accounted for more than half of Washington’s first-half yardage total (128).

26. For the fifth straight week, a McCourty brother contributed an interception to the cause. For the first time, it was Jason rather than Devin who did the honors, picking off McCoy at the Redskins’ 27 and returning to the 16. The Patriots offense converted it into just 3 points.

27. If the Patriots aren’t getting the Jim Nantz/Tony Romo broadcast team in a given week, give me CBS’s Kevin Harlan/Rich Gannon duo. They’re CBS’s fourth team, but they’re better than the No. 2 team of Ian Eagle and Dan Fouts (not Eagle’s fault there) and the No. 3 Greg Gumbel/Trent Green tandem that had this one.

28. They’re fine, but Green is so chatty I wonder if he even pauses for breath during commercial breaks. And Gumbel ought to know that anyone who is familiar with Adrian Peterson isn’t interested in hearing about how strong his handshake is. As a man, he’s weak.

29. Then there was Gumbel looking at Duron Harmon and Devin McCourty on the Patriots bench late in the game and identifying them as the McCourty twins. Aren’t identical twins supposed to be, you know, identical?

30. Ben Watson was supposed to be a welcome addition this week, but the veteran tight end didn’t play, and there’s some suspense about what his role may end up being — or if he’ll have one at all. But Brady ended up getting decent mileage out his tight ends anyway, with Ryan Izzo and Matt LaCosse combining for three catches for 61 yards, including a TD catch by Izzo.

31. Perhaps the Patriots offense might have been more productive and efficient early had Phillip Dorsett not gone down with a hamstring injury, especially since Josh Gordon was just OK (five catches, 59 yards).

32. Dorsett was a non-factor against the Bills last week (two catches on nine targets), but he has earned his way into the Brady circle of trust and might have had some real opportunities of this one.

33. Brady (71,923) passed Brett Favre (71,838) for third place on the all-time passing yardage list. He’s just 17 yards behind Peyton Manning (71,940) , which with the Patriots playing Thursday gives Manning three days to announce his comeback and try to prevent Brady from surpassing him.


Chad Finn can be reached at finn@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeChadFinn.