One of the most important—and difficult—traits to obtain is self-knowledge. Constant and honest re-evaluation of oneself is the key to success.
When individuals lack it, they are susceptible to neuroses and delusions.
When organizations lack it, they are susceptible to institutional dysfunction.
Football teams must constantly evaluate and re-evaluate players, coaches, and opponents. With the incredibly talent gap between any two professional teams, the correct read of a situation can mean the difference between victory and defeat.
With that in mind, it seems a reasonable time to examine the Patriots' season thus far with clear, unbiased eyes. What has the team learned? What's worked? What hasn't?
The defense has been surprisingly good.
Let's face it, the Pats defense, and especially the secondary, has been a sore spot for some time. They have been gashed by good players, unable to get off the field in third-down situations, and have failed to generate a consistent pass rush.
This year's unit has improved dramatically. Their secondary has been able to keep up with good receivers. They have been able to stop teams on third downs with greater efficiency (though they did allow the Ravens a disappointing 64 percent conversion rate).
The team still has to develop a pass rush, and they have allowed teams to move the ball a bit too much. Still, given the lack of the incredibly talented Jerod Mayo, this has been a great performance by the defense.
Rumors of Tom Brady's demise may have been exaggerated.
He still has some rust to shake off, but Brady has rebounded from a traumatic injury faster than one could've expected.
After some lackluster games to start the season, Brady looked like the player of old against a good-to-very-good Ravens defense. He has not regained the form of 2007 (and who knows if he ever can?), but the 2003 or 2004 Brady is certainly not a bad alternative.
Joey Galloway is probably on his way out.
Some experiments fail, and it certainly looks like the Galloway experiment is headed in that direction. Galloway has seemingly been unable to find his rhythm in the Pats offense. He had the opportunity to take a larger role with the absence of Wes Welker, and was unable to capitalize.
Galloway certainly has time to turn things around, but it looks like a difficult path.
Wes Welker looks like the second most important player on the offense.
Not to downplay the excellent job Randy Moss has done in Welker's absence, but the offense seems much crisper whenever Welker is on the field. Welker inhabits Troy Brown's old role as Brady's consistent and sure target.
Moss is undeniably talented and Julian Edelman is starting to come into his own, but Brady seems to prefer Welker when he needs to convert a third down.
Laurence Maroney needs to start producing.
It's been the habitual refrain of Patriots fans almost since the running back was drafted, but Maroney has to start living up to his billing.
So far, he seems to have done away with some of the indecision that's plagued his career, but an injury sidelined him for most of the Falcons game (enabling a breakout performance by Fred Taylor) and ineffectiveness caused an early exit in the Ravens game (seven attempts, six yards and paving the way for the Sammy Morris re-emergence).
Sooner or later, Maroney will run out of chances.
This is but an incomplete look at the issues facing the Pats so far. It is a long season, and these things will continue to develop.
Continued vigilance is necessary to keep small problems from turning into large ones.