By Pat Cameron
As the second half of the season moved along for the New England Patriots, their offense stepped up and became the answer to what had been a tough first half of the year.
New England was able to come out of the first half with a 7-2 record; but many of the wins were tough, down-to-the-wire type games. In addition, they suffered season ending injuries to Vince Wilfork, Jerod Mayo and Tommy Kelly who were key parts of a defense that looked like it was going to carry a below average offense to a big success. The loss of those players meant that the offense was going to need to put more points on the board and win shootout games like the Patriots of old.
The offense was in need of a spark.
That spark came in the form of Rob Gronkowski who was just what the doctor ordered. It took a game or two for him and Tom Brady to get back on the same page; but when they started clicking the points started adding up.
Gronkowski is a player who attracts so much attention; and that opens up the field for other players to step up. Players like Julian Edelman and Kenbrell Thompkins have been more consistent with creating open space and are seeming to build confidence with Brady.
Shane Vereen is another player that has added another dimension to the offense. He was hurt in week one and was not eligible to return until week 11, but since his return the backfield has become another option for Brady. With Steven Ridley having fumbling issues Vereen’s presence has been very important.
In the last five games, the Patriots have averaged 28.5 points with only one loss coming in that span. That loss ended on a controversial no-call in the end zone where Gronkowski clearly got interfered with and the flag that was thrown was picked up. The Pats were going to have to get over that loss real fast with the conference leading Denver Broncos coming to Foxborough for a huge week 12 matchup.
In that Sunday night game on November 24, weather played a major factor in the outcome. It felt like it was colder than what was projected and it seemed to affect the Patriots right from the get go. After three different players fumbled the ball on the first three possessions of the game, it looked like the weather had gotten to New England.
The 24-point halftime deficit had many spectators leaving the game and turning off their televisions. Those people were kicking themselves in the morning when they found out that they missed one of the biggest comebacks in NFL history.
Speaking as a Patriots fan, the incredible come-from-behind victory felt that much better because of the mistake Wes Welker made on the punt in overtime that cost the Broncos the game. Getting that win was very important because the Patriots have a very favorable schedule going forward. They squeezed by Houston this past week and the only team that could give them a problem is the Ravens when the Pats play them on December 22 on the road.
With the way that New England is playing and all of the healthy (finally, at the same time) weapons Brady has, the Patriots are in prime position to get a first round bye in the playoffs with a chance at the number one seed.