FOXBOROUGH — Instant analysis from the Patriots’ 35-14 win over the Giants:
■ Forget the final score. The Patriots’ offense is just not good enough to win the AFC right now. The offensive line can’t open up holes in the run game or give Tom Brady enough time to throw. The receiving corps is getting decimated by injuries. And Brady looks like a shell of himself – throwing wildly, not protecting the ball and locking onto receivers. He doesn’t look comfortable playing with his teammates.
The upcoming mini-bye will help the Patriots with their injuries. But they are really thin at receiver and tight end, and badly need to trade for one before the Oct. 29 trade deadline (or, ahem, bring back a certain former Steelers receiver).
Does anyone think the Patriots’ offense, as currently constructed, can keep up with the Chiefs or Texans? I sure don’t.
And Brady might not, either. After the game, I asked Brady for his assessment of the offense, and whether he and his teammates are good enough right now. Brady paused for several seconds, shrugging his shoulders several times.
“We’ll see,” he said.
That answer tells us everything we need to know. The Patriots need to get healthy, and need to add more firepower on offense.
■ The Patriots were lucky they were playing a Triple A offense and a Giants coach too afraid to take any chances. The Patriots’ defense had yet another dominant performance, forcing four turnovers and scoring a touchdown. They forced three Daniel Jones interceptions, and their only hiccup came on a 64-yard touchdown to Golden Tate, who beat tight coverage by Jonathan Jones on a deep fade then burned Duron Harmon to the end zone. Of course, the defense is going to look great when Saquon Barkley, Wayne Gallman, Evan Engram, and Sterling Shepard are all out with injuries.
The Patriots’ defense can keep carrying them in these games against bad offenses. But in November and December, the Patriots will finally play some real quarterbacks, and won’t be able to count on the defense scoring points and forcing four turnovers every week.
As for Pat Shurmur, the man kept punting the ball away from midfield, and again on fourth-and-2 in the fourth quarter. Fortune favors the bold, Pat. When you go into Gillette Stadium with a shorthanded team, and a 2-3 record, you’ve got to take some changes.
■ Brady trusts Julian Edelman and James White, and that’s about it. They each had nine catches, with Edelman going for 113 yards and White just 46. But with Josh Gordon and Phillip Dorsett hurt, Brady doesn’t look at too many of his other receivers. Rookie Jakobi Meyers actually showed some promise, catching all four of his targets for 54 yards, including an impressive 23-yard catch in traffic. But this game highlighted a pressing need to add more talent around Brady.
■ We saw so many uncharacteristic mistakes by the Patriots’ offense on Thursday night. Brady’s accuracy was a mess — he threw way behind an open Edelman on his interception, then missed badly on short throws to Ryan Izzo and Edelman in the first quarter. Brady held onto the ball way too long on his sack-fumble, and never saw a receiver streaking open down the middle. On the same play, the Patriots had Izzo, a tight end, blocking pass rusher Lorenzo Carter, which resulted in a strip-sack for Carter. We never see the Patriots leave their tight ends 1-on-1 against a pass rusher without some help.
■ The offensive line is still a mess. Left tackle Marshall Newhouse allowed another bad sack in the first quarter, and the running backs had nowhere to run all night. The Patriots really need to bring Isaiah Wynn back off injured reserve.
■ OK, I’ll say it: Brandon Bolden is better than Sony Michel. Michel once again got stuffed on short-yardage running, failing to pick up a third-and-1 or fourth-and-1 on consecutive snaps. Then Michel got stuffed a couple of times on the goal line. And I know the offensive line isn’t creating many big holes for Michel, but he’s not running with any burst, and doesn’t have great vision. An 8-yard screen pass in the third quarter should have gone for a lot more.
Michel was so ineffective in short yardage that Brady had to sneak it himself six times, including three times on the goal line. And the Patriots also started using Bolden on the goal line, who was able to punch it in. Bolden also showed nice vision on a 16-yard screen pass.
Bolden is no great running back, but he at least runs more decisively than does Michel. That second half performance by Michel in Washington was a mirage.
■ Bolden also got a big assist on the blocked punt touchdown. He got such a good push up the middle on linebacker Nate Stupar that Giants punter Riley Dixon punted the ball off the back of Stupar’s helmet and up in the air. Chase Winovich then caught the live ball and returned it for a touchdown. Bolden, for years an unheralded special teams grunt in Foxborough, has been a valuable addition this year.
■ The Patriots were able to get by without a kicker against the Redskins and Giants. But this is now a big issue. And it’s not just the kicker’s fault. Mike Nugent probably should have made that 40-yard field goal, but Jake Bailey’s hold was awful, with the laces directly in. Bailey had issues when holding for Stephen Gostkowski, and obviously still has a lot of work to do.
Three times the Patriots eschewed a field goal to go for it on fourth down, and the Patriots were stopped twice, and got bailed out by a defensive holding penalty a third time. But Bill Belichick was right to pass up the field goal, because the field goal operation is a serious issue right now.
■ Jones threw three interceptions, but he still made some nice throws, particularly his perfect fade pass on the 64-yard touchdown to Tate. He made a few rookie decisions, but Jones was facing the NFL’s top defense, and didn’t have any help out there. He’s going to be a good one.