Grading the New England Patriots' Performance in the 2011 NFL Regular Season

Tony Santorsa@@TonySantorsaSenior Writer IIJanuary 4, 2012

FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 24:  Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots watches his team completes drills before a game with the Miami Dolphins at Gillette Stadium on December 24, 2011 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Jim Rogash/Getty Images

At this point, the 2011 NFL season has been an extremely successful one for the New England Patriots as they posted a 13-3 record and earned themselves the No. 1 seed in the AFC. 

Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski had record-breaking seasons while New England's defense performed as poorly as we have ever seen in the Bill Belichick era.

While taking all of that into consideration, let's take a look at the Patriots final report grade for the 2011 NFL regular season. 

Pass Offense: A+

How can you get much better than having a quarterback that breaks Dan Marino's single-season passing record that stood since 1984 and have a tight end that broke the NFL's single-season record of most touchdowns caught by a tight end in a season?

You really can't—that's why the New England Patriots offense receives a perfect A+.

Tom Brady posted an incredible 105.6 quarterback rating as he completed 65.6 percent of his passes for a whopping 5,235 yards and throwing 39 touchdowns compared to just 12 interceptions. 

Brady's receivers really benefited in 2011 as Rob Gronkowski reeled in 90 passes for 1,327 yards while scoring 17 touchdowns and Wes Welker snagged 122 balls for 1,569 yards and scoring nine touchdowns.

All in all, New England's passing game could not have been that much better in 2011.

Rush Offense: C

New England's ground game wasn't all that special from a year ago, considering that not one of their running backs came even close to crossing 1,000 yards rushing. 

BenJarvus Green-Ellis led the team in rushing as he accumulated 667 yards and scored 11 touchdowns, but he only averaged 3.7 yards per-carry.

The biggest bright spot in New England's backfield was the success of rookie Stevan Ridley. The LSU product ran for 441 yards as he averaged 5.1 yards per carry and scored one touchdown. 

I suppose your rushing attack doesn't have to be that great when you have Tom Brady at quarterback.

Pass Defense: F

The New England Patriots secondary struggled in dramatic fashion in 2011 as they were the second-worst pass defense in the entire league. 

New England definitely dealt with injuries, but their biggest problem was 2010 Pro Bowl cornerback Devin McCourty was hardly ever playing at a Pro Bowl level in 2011. 

It's kind of shocking that a team could achieve a 13-win season with such a poor pass defense. 

Rush Defense: C+

Over the years, the Patriots rush defense has struggled but showed signs of improvement this past season as they held opponents to only 4.6 yards per carry. 

New England definitely beefed up on their defensive line as they switched to a 4-3 defensive look as Vince Wilfork and Kyle Love had a solid season while new additions Andre Carter and Mark Anderson really came through for the team.

Overall, New England's rush defense isn't all that bad. 

Special Teams: C

New England's special team in general was pretty average in 2011.

I mean, kicker Stephen Gostkowski drilled 85 percent of his field goals while punter Zoltan Mesko averaged 46.5 yards per-punt.

However, their biggest weakness was in the return game, as they simply struggled all season and never really had any big-time returns.

Coaching: B+

For what Bill Belichick the general manager gave himself this season, I have to say that it did a fine job.

The New England Patriots were the best team in the AFC—what else could you ask for? 

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