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Achilles' Heel: Slow Starters
From the moment Chad Henne torched the New England Patriots for 400 yards in Week 1, their issues in pass coverage have been on show for all to see.
The training camp release of Brandon Meriweather came as no shock to fans tired of his poor angles and cheap shots, but doing so after cutting James Sanders was a head-scratcher. The cull didn't end there though, with Darius Butler, Jonathan Wilhite and Leigh Bodden all sent on go routes out of New England.
Factor in injuries to Patrick Chung and Ras-I Dowling, and the cupboard has never been more bare under Bill Belichick.
Previously a position of depth, Belichick the general manager forced Belichick the head coach to work with Julian Edelman at cornerback, and special teams talent at safety. The wounds are self-inflicted, and the results have been ugly.
A series of slow starts, and an insistence on deferring the ball on the coin toss, have left the Patriots digging themselves into a hole, before coaching adjustments, and the all-star cast on offense turn the ship around.
The trouble is, if teams like the Dolphins and Bills can jump out to three-score leads early on, what will the Ravens do? Or the Steelers?
In the 2009 Wild Card game at Gillette Stadium, we saw exactly what can happen. The Ravens put the game to bed early, scoring 21 points in the first quarter and forcing three quick turnovers. Against elite opposition, that's too much of a mountain to climb.
This year, the Patriots rank third in turnovers with a plus-17 differential, and force their fair share of field goals in red zone defense. And with the likes of Tom Brady, Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, opponents will need to light up the scoreboard to stand a chance in Foxborough.
But as Ben Roethlisberger showed in Week 8, good quarterbacks can make a mockery of this secondary, complete passes with ease, and control the clock. If you're a Patriots fan, you have to be concerned that the Steelers' blueprint is copied in the playoffs.