Aerial Assault Continues

Tom Brady (Getty)

Forget about the numbers -- those are ridiculous -- the Patriots continue to beat opposing defenses using a lethal combination of passing schemes with just enough of a running attack to keep opponents off-balance

Aerial attack appears unstoppable

Neither the Patriots nor the Jets had the first quarter of the season they wanted leading into Sunday afternoon's key AFC East battle at Gillette Stadium.

   The big difference is that New England enters the game with a 3-1 record, tied atop the division with the upstart Bills, the only team to defeat the Patriots to date.

   New York on the other hand, has dropped consecutive games to fall to 2-2. Not exactly the type of momentum that Rex Ryan was hoping to have as he prepares his team for a trip to New England.

   Neither New York nor New England looks to have a championship-caliber defense. The only thing that has the Patriots rolling is the ridiculous numbers that Tom Brady and the team's passing attack are putting up.

   Brady obviously deserves much of the credit. He's thrown for 1,553 yards in four games with 13 touchdowns and five interceptions, compiling a 111.3 passer rating. He's on pace to break the single-season NFL records for both yards and touchdowns.

   The reigning league MVP has picked up where he left off and then some.

   But as good as Brady has been, a big reason for that success has been the dominant play of diminutive slot receiver Wes Welker.

   Welker took full advantage of Oakland's banged-up secondary in Sunday's 31-19 win over the Raiders to put up nine catches for 158 yards and a touchdown. Over the last two weeks, Welker has 25 receptions for 375 yards and three touchdowns. For the season, he leads the league in catches (40) and 616 receiving yards (616), and he is tied for second with five touchdown grabs.

   In fact, even for a guy who had three consecutive 100-catch seasons in his first three years with New England, Welker is simply on another level right now.

   "Nothing surprises me with Wes. He's the heart and soul of this team," Brady said in Oakland after his second straight game with more than half of his completions going to Welker. "He's been that way since the day he got here. He works his tail off. He's a great player, a great teammate. He's really become a dynamic player over the years. He's made some huge plays for us. He's awesome."

   Playing like a true No. 1 receiver right now, Welker may get the compliment the Jets pay to all No. 1 receivers -- a day lined up opposite Darrelle Revis.

   So far no one has stopped Welker and the Patriots' high powered passing attack. That's the challenge for Ryan, Revis and the rest of the Jets.

NOTES

   LINEUP WATCH: With Jerod Mayo expected to miss at least a few weeks with a reported MCL injury, there will be a scramble to fill a big void in the Patriots' linebacking corps. Mayo, an All-Pro, is really New England's only every-down linebacker. He's the primary play-caller and a defensive co-captain. His roles likely will be split between Brandon Spikes, Gary Guyton and Dane Fletcher.

   BY THE NUMBERS: 13 -- Consecutive games, dating back to last season, in which Tom Brady has thrown two or more touchdown passes. The streak ties the NFL record set by Peyton Manning in 2004. Brady will be looking to break the record in Sunday's matchup with CB Darrelle Revis and the Jets.

   --OT Sebastian Vollmer missed his second consecutive game and third of the season with a back injury. Vollmer, who had back surgery in college at Houston, played in Week 2 but otherwise has been out of action early in the year.

   --CB Ras-I Dowling, a rookie second-round pick who was often injured in his days at Virginia, missed his second straight game with a hip injury.

   --DT Mike Wright missed his third straight game with a concussion. Wright ended last season on injured reserve due to the effects of a severe concussion.

   --TE Aaron Hernandez missed his second game in a row due to a reported strained MCL.

   --DL Albert Haynesworth missed his second straight game with a back injury. Haynesworth practiced Wednesday, but he wasn't able to go the rest of the week or make the trip to Oakland.
   --CB Leigh Bodden missed his first game of the season, unable to make it to the field against Oakland due to a groin injury despite practicing on a limited basis all week.
   --QB Ryan Mallett was the only healthy scratch among New England's inactives against the Raiders.
   --WR Taylor Price was active for the first time this season and just the second time in his two-year New England career after being drafted in the third round in 2010.
   --LB Jerod Mayo left the first half of Sunday's game at Oakland with a reported medial collateral ligament injury and did not return.


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