Report Card: Bye Week Grades Are Out

Six games are in the books and the Patriots stand at 5-1. So how does the team stack up? Here are the grades for the team unit-by-unit for the first six weeks.


   PASSING OFFENSE: A -- This has been the team's strength since the start of the season. Outside of Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees, no quarterback has been more efficient than Tom Brady. The tight end tandem of Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski is as good as it gets. The only negative is Chad Ochocinco's non-existence, but it's done little to deter Brady.

   RUSHING OFFENSE: B-minus -- BenJarvus Green-Ellis certainly has a nose for the end zone, but he really hadn't emerged as an every-down threat until recently. The performance of rookie Stevan Ridley in limited action has been a bonus, but Danny Woodhead has been slowed by injuries. The imminent return of Kevin Faulk will give the team more options down the stretch. The real MVPs in the running game are the offensive linemen, who continue to make it look easy.

   PASS DEFENSE: C -- Devin McCourty has had a rough sophomore season, and there's been little to no consistency from the remainder of the defensive backs. The Patriots are susceptible to too many big plays, and even in prevent or zone defense, they fail to cover enough ground to slow opposing drives.

   RUSH DEFENSE: B -- The Patriots don't get eaten alive too often up front. Vince Wilfork has had another spectacular year, and not even the limited participation of Albert Haynesworth has slowed the line's momentum. The lack of a pass rush is a problem with the front seven, but in terms of rushing yards and overall run defense, the Patriots are more than competitive.

   SPECIAL TEAMS: A -- Zoltan Mesko has been a pleasant surprise in the punting game, and kicker Stephen Gostkowski remains as consistent as ever. Though there haven't been any eye-popping returns on punts or kickoffs, the Patriots have covered well. The fact they haven't shown up on too many highlight reels is the best news yet.

   COACHING: A -- Bill Belichick and his staff still push all the right buttons and are capable of working with what they have, even if it's not always ideal. They are more than willing to banish someone like Ochocinco for lack of performance regardless of the player's stature. The fact that the Patriots still rush the ball as effectively as anyone without a true No. 1 running back says a lot about coaching and technique.

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