So much for an undefeated season.
The New England Patriots coughed up another halftime lead to the New York Jets, allowing Mark Sanchez to drop bombs (294 yards, three touchdowns) while Tom Brady laid an egg (two interceptions, lost fumble in second half).
Luckily, the Patriots host their perennial doormat, the Buffalo Bills in Week 3. But let's not count our eggs before they hatch—especially if Brady lays another one against the Bills.
The two teams always have fairly close contests, but this one is even more important than usual for the Patriots, who face the prospect of starting 1-2 if they can't put two and two together (by two and two, I of course mean the first two quarters and the last two quarters).
Here's what the Patriots need to do to get back on track with a win in Week 3 over their division rival.
Tom Brady proved he can party like it's 2007 against the Bengals but the Jets were able to stop him cold with three turnovers in the second half.
It's tough to run at a stalwart defense like the Jets, but the Bills are a far cry from the team that ranked No. 1 in overall defense in 2009. If the Patriots can keep the Bills honest by balancing out the attack between passing and running, they could show glimpses of the team that trampled the Bengals in Week 1.
A little diversity never hurt anyone, especially in the red zone, where teams will look to take advantage of tendencies to try and stop an opponent from scoring. If there's one tendency the Patriots have had over the past four seasons, it's to throw, throw, and throw some more, even with less than 20 yards to the stripe.
All preseason, Patriots fans were treated to what we thought was a sign of things to come. Laurence Maroney (now a Bronco), BenJarvus Green-Ellis, and Fred Taylor highlighted what was a multi-faceted red zone offense.
Even if the Patriots don't score touchdowns, getting the ball to these guys in the red zone will force defenses to play them honest, not just this week, but for future contests as well.
The Patriots' aggressive play on defense may have hurt them on Sunday against the Jets, but it's likely to work in their favor against the Bills who have been mistake-prone so far this season.
Trent Edwards has thrown for 241 yards in the first two games with one touchdown and two interceptions for a 58.3 passer rating. What's worse, he's been sacked seven times in that span.
That bodes poorly for the Bills this Sunday. Despite questions surrounding their spotty front seven this offseason, the Patriots have gotten after the quarterback, creating pressure despite only reaching the quarterback four times.
Playing with the same kind of aggression that the Green Bay Packers achieved with their 3-4 defense this past Sunday will work in New England's favor when they host the Bills in Week 3.
The Patriots sprung out to a 24-3 lead at halftime over the Bengals, and took it to 31-3 on the ensuing kickoff, but only finished with a 14-point win as they let the Bengals climb back in. A 14-10 halftime lead over the Jets never felt very safe, but the Patriots didn't put a single point on the board in the second half.
This may seem incredibly obvious, but someone in the Patriots locker room missed the memo that you're supposed to make adjustments at halftime.
This has been the saga of the Patriots for over a full season now, starting with the game against the Jets in Week 2 of '09 and lasting all the way to this point. Even the Bills can get a win over the Patriots if New England fails to make the appropriate changes to the game plan at the halfway point.
This ties in with the halftime adjustments, but also comes down to play-calling. The Patriots need to pack more spice with their calls on both sides of the ball, as they come out flatter than day-old soda from time to time.
If Randy Moss isn't getting it done, don't throw him the ball. I understand wanting to give him a chance to make a play, but targeting him 10 times for two connections seems asinine when Welker went 6-for-7 on his targets and Aaron Hernandez caught all of his six targets.
Football is like a chess match, a game of strategy. Perhaps staying away from Moss for awhile will force the defense to bear down on the other options and open up things over the top for the Moss Man.
Only time will tell, but it's certainly worth a try.
The Bills won't hurt you through the air. Trent Edwards has been just about as awful as any quarterback could be through the first two games, averaging a piddly 3.2 yards per throw and only 55 percent completions.
They can't count on their pass attack for anything, so the Bills will likely look to run the ball at New England early to establish a rhythm that forces the Patriots to respect the run.
Shutting down the run, then, becomes of paramount importance. The Patriots need to play like they did in the opener against the Bengals, when they held Cedric Benson to under three yards per carry on 15 carries.
Inconsistency has been the name of the game for defensive backs wearing a Patriots uniform over the past couple of weeks. Darius Butler and Devin McCourty have played well at times, but have given up big plays other times.
Devin McCourty doesn't appear to be the problem, although he was beaten by Dustin Keller for a touchdown this past weekend against the Jets. Other than that, Mark Sanchez generally stayed away from his side of the field, largely because McCourty had his man covered.
2009 second-round pick Darius Butler, however, didn't. He has been exposed for his diminutive frame and lack of discipline, forking up two big pass interference plays in a row and giving up touchdown grabs to both Braylon Edwards and Jerricho Cotchery on Sunday at New Meadowlands Stadium.
He will be tasked with covering Roscoe Parrish and Lee Evans this coming week. The pass rush may get there, but if it doesn't, Butler and McCourty will both have to stay disciplined.
The Bills aren't a team that you want to get into a kicking contest with. Although they may not pose the biggest threats on offense and defense, somehow their special teams units are always...well, special.
They feature a pair of cornerbacks in Terrence McGee and Leodis McKelvin who both excel as kick and punt returners, and we all learned in Week 1 how big a special teams play can be when Brandon Tate broke the opening kickoff of the second half for a 98-yard score.
It would be better, though, if it didn't come down to that.
The Patriots need to put it in the end zone when they make it into the red zone before it becomes a battle of field position and field goals. They were only 3-for-5 in Week 1 in the red zone and 1-for-3 in Week 2 against the Jets for a piddling 50-percent conversion ratio.
That includes, but is not limited to...
Most of the Bills' starting linebackers are injured. The Bills were without their best defender last week, as linebacker Paul Posluszny nursed a knee injury. His status for this coming game is uncertain, but the outlook isn't bright for the Bills linebacker. Kawika Mitchell is on injured reserve.
Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski are two of New England's best options in the passing game, largely because of the matchup problems they pose to opposing linebackers. Hernandez plays more like a receiver than a tight end, and Gronkowski is too big and quick for any linebackers that the Bills can match up on him.
The Patriots should go to their tight ends early and often.
By Tom Brady's own admission, the Patriots "sucked" against the Jets in the second half.
Much of the blame has fallen on an uncharacteristically awful performance from Tom Brady (two interceptions, fumble in second half). Of course, it shouldn't all fall squarely on his shoulders. Did you see the crazy spin move Jason Taylor put on Matt Light? The former Pro Bowl tackle looked silly.
Tom Brady will need to get back to what he does best: taking exactly what the defense gives him. He's always been a cerebral quarterback, and the nickel-and-dime stuff has been working for them all season up to this point.
He has been such a big leader for the Patriots all preseason. In the face of adversity, now is the time for him to really take charge of this team and be not only the All Pro quarterback, but the leader they need him to be.