New Blood Not Much Help For Patriots

Chad Ochocinco (Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE)

Bill Belichick made a conscientious effort to bring in new veteran bodies to help his young team. Those veterans have yet to have any significant impact. Some may never pan out.

 The pressure is on in New England.

   It's not the pressure that Bill Belichick probably envisioned when he was constructing his post-lockout Patriots' roster on the fly this summer.

   Theoretically, Belichick traded for wide receiver Chad Ochocinco to add another element to a passing game that led New England as the highest-scoring attack in the league in 2010.

   But Ochocinco has struggled mightily in getting his mind wrapped around New England's complex passing game and his confidence seems to be in the gutter right now. He's caught just five passes for 87 yards in three games, but his most memorable plays from Sunday's loss in Buffalo were a rounded-off route that contributed to an interception and an ugly drop on a would-be 41-yard touchdown pass.

   Belichick's vision isn't coming together any better on the defensive side of the ball for Belichick.

   When he traded for Albert Haynesworth and signed veteran defensive linemen Shaun Ellis, Mark Anderson and Andre Carter he did so with the idea that they'd help put pressure on opposing passers in New England's new-look 4-3 front. Theoretically, a defense that ranked dead-last in third-down defense and struggled overall against the pass a year ago would get a boost up front.

   The best-laid plan often goes awry, and nothing could be truer than with the theory about the Patriots defense.

   Haynesworth has been basically a non-factor, including missing Sunday's game with a back injury. The other three have failed to inject much life into a pass rush that's contributed mightily, or fail to contribute as it would be, to a defense that's allowed 1,406 yards in three games.

   The failings of Belichick offseason as a whole, especially on defense, have increased the pressure in an unintended way on Tom Brady. The reigning NFL MVP essentially has to be perfect if New England is to win games against decent competition at this point. Brady was just that through two wins to open the season, but when he threw four interceptions in Buffalo it led to the Bills first win over New England since 2003.

   So while opposing quarterbacks are feeling absolutely no pressure these days -- including on Sunday when Buffalo's Ryan Fiztpatrick was not sacked and hit just twice on 40 pass attempts -- Brady is feeling as much pressure to carry New England's winning chances as ever.

   Even his teammates realize and know it simply has to be better.

   "This isn't just on Tom. It's everybody," Welker said of what needs to improve.

   "We just need to try to score more and give up less," Belichick said in his bottom-line style.

   Of course former might be hard for a team that has scored at least 31 points in each of first three games. And considering how poorly the defense is playing right now, the latter might be hard as well.

   Either way, the pressure is on Brady right now in New England to carry the load.


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