The Pats and Raiders aren't overly familiar with one another, which might make the unknown just as intimidating as the challenge of stopping Oakland running back Darren McFadden. There are plenty of questions surrounding this New England team after its first loss of the season. Let's get to a few of them in this week's mailbag.
Are you concerned about Tom Brady's four interceptions, or was that just a fluke? –Mike
Interceptions can be a fluky thing, especially when someone like Tom Brady literally throws a season's worth in just three quarters. I don't think anyone is exactly worried about Brady, who is off to a historic start in terms of passing yards.
Let's take a look at Brady's six career four-interception games — 2001 at Denver, 2003 at Buffalo, 2004 at Miami, 2005 at Kansas City, 2006 against Indianapolis and last week at Buffalo — and how he has responded. Brady is 0-6 in those games, and he has completed 129 of 215 passes (60.0 percent) for 1,333 yards, 10 touchdowns and 24 interceptions.
In the five ensuing games — at the Falcons, at the Eagles and three times against the Jets (one away then two at home) — Brady has been notably better. He is 4-1 while completing 123 of 180 passes (68.3 percent) for 1,293 yards, nine touchdowns and just one interception. Interestingly, the one interception came in the 2006 game against the Jets, which is the only game that Brady has lost after throwing four picks.
Brady is a master at bouncing back, evidenced by those numbers as well as his 25-6 record after a loss, which includes 18 wins in his last 20 games following a defeat.
Do you think the offense should have more of a running game? The hurry-up is exciting, but the defense is constantly on the field and the offense is very one-dimensional. –Bob
It might be hard to notice through Brady's impressive start, but the Patriots aren't exactly awful in terms of running the ball. They're 13th in the NFL with 308 rushing yards and tied for 11th with 4.2 yards per carry. They're only tied for 20th with 73 attempts, so the lack of rushes might be a concern.
The Patriots also average 29:35 in time of possession, which ranks 16th in the NFL. It's right in the middle of the league by comparison, but it seems like a low number for a team that has the most yards in the NFL.
I wouldn't worry too much about the offense being one-dimensional just yet. The running game hasn't been great, but they also haven't burned themselves by trying to use it too much. Like always, the Patriots will transition toward the ground game more as the season progresses due to the weather, and the rushing attack should at least be serviceable. They've got plenty of talent in the backfield.
What's the deal with Shane Vereen? Is he ready to contribute? — @bfd106, via Twitter
His progress was undoubtedly hindered by a hamstring injury that sidelined him through a large chunk of training camp and the preseason, so he's fourth on the depth chart at this point. From the data provided in the last question, the Patriots haven't exactly run the ball enough to spread the carries between four backs. Bill Belichick trusts BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead to perform well in their roles, and the rookies — Vereen and Stevan Ridley — need to prove themselves on game days.
Belichick has shown that he'll give the ball to the hot hand at any given moment, but it's just tough to spread the ball around to all four guys. Vereen will be in Oakland on Sunday, but I don't think it's reasonable to expect him to explode for a big game just yet. I do think he'll be a good player in due time, though.
Thrilled that we've got Gerard Warren back, and I have a feeling he'll be with us the rest of the season. My question is, do you think they'll bring him back next season? I was, like everyone else, puzzled by his release earlier this month. –Dani
Warren is a good guy, and he's good against the run. There's no doubt he'll help this team. While he had a good summer, I wasn't overly surprised that he was released at the start of the regular season.
Warren wants to play for the Patriots, and I think they told him to sit tight so they could figure out the roster for a couple weeks. Due to the injuries to Myron Pryor and Mike Wright, they needed Warren back.
Warren hasn't given a specific answer for how long he wants to keep playing, but the 33-year-old wants a Super Bowl ring. If the Patriots win one, I wouldn't be surprised if he retired. It's far too early to know if he'll be back in 2012, but I know it would be a fit if he's still got enough in the tank.
Jeff, with Albert Haynesworth out and Gerard Warren back, do you think we'll see some 3-4 against the running Raider team? — @patriotssox1, via Twitter
Haynesworth is questionable, and he'll probably be a game-time decision in Oakland. If he can't play, you'll likely see the Patriots employ more three-man fronts, just like they did against the Bills, whose offense is also driven by Fred Jackson and the running game (despite Buffalo's passing numbers). Warren will definitely get some time next to Vince Wilfork in those fronts, and I think there will be a mix of 3-4 and nickel sub packages with three linemen and three linebackers.