The New England Patriots Have an Identity Crisis

Mike GleasonCorrespondent ISeptember 22, 2009

FOXBORO, MA - SEPTEMBER 03:  Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots looks on from the bench in the first half against the New York Giants on September 3, 2009 at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

With two games played, Patriots fans now face more questions than answers.

The team has been largely disappointing thus far, falling behind a lackluster Bills team (necessitating a near-miracle comeback) and putting up a hard-to-watch effort on Sunday against the Jets.

Tom Brady has not looked quite right in either game: it appears obvious he has not fully recovered from his traumatic knee injury. It could be mental, or there could still be problems with the knee, but the Brady of 2009 has looked hapless, harried and gun-shy.

The offensive line has seemingly done little to help him. After a 2007 season when it seemed Brady was hardly touched until the Super Bowl, this unit has been sorely lacking. To be fair, Matt Cassel's inexperience caused a lot of sacks last year, but this year's iteration has allowed an unacceptable number of free blitzers, especially with a still-healing quarterback.

The receiving corps also appears to be off its game. Brady has yet to develop anything close to a rapport with Joey Galloway. Randy Moss has yet to catch a deep pass.

Wes Welker looked good against the Bills, but, in a surprise move, was held out of Sunday's game. If Welker's condition is chronic, it would be a great blow to this already sputtering offense.

The running game has been maddeningly inconsistent—it appears to work well at times but then vanishes, leaving the Pats in obvious passing downs and exacerbating the issues with Brady.

The defense has been decent, considering the flak it's been getting recently (and especially considering the loss of linebacker Jerod Mayo). It's currently ranked third in the NFL in terms of yardage allowed and, taking away a Brady pick-six in the Bills game, has allowed 17 and 16 points in its first two games.

This is not a dominant defense by any means, but it is one that should keep the Pats in games.

The Patriots need to define themselves as a team, and quickly. Next week, they play a Falcons team that has shown no signs of a letdown after last year's surprise playoff run. Starting the season 1-2 may mean staying home come playoff time.

The Pats have played the first two games as if they expected the 2007 Brady to magically appear. Now, they must find something else on which to rely.