Through all the kvetching about the Patriots’ offense over the last five days, it’s largely been overlooked that New England was still missing key pieces in that 34-10 loss to the Tennessee Titans.
Tight end Rob Gronkowski sat out with ankle and back injuries, and right guard Shaq Mason was inactive with a calf injury. The Patriots have been without running back Rex Burkhead since Week 3. Against the Titans, left tackle Trent Brown, right tackle Marcus Cannon and tight end Dwayne Allen got banged up. Running back James White also didn’t really look the same since injuring his knee midway through the Patriots’ 31-17 win over the Green Bay Packers in Week 9.
Quarterback Tom Brady hinted his offense could be back to full strength coming out of their Week 11 bye.
“I think we’re getting as close as we’ve been in a long time,” Brady told Charlie Weis and Bob Papa on SiriusXM NFL Radio. “This is kind of a good time for the bye. We’ve been at it for 14 weeks including the preseason. At this point, your body becomes — in my belief — pretty calloused to the football season. You’re used to the hits. Your body and your brain knows what it’s about to do every weekend.
“You have some guys who are dealing with some bumps and bruises, but hopefully, we can move into this stretch healthy. I know guys are feeling better and working hard.”
Burkhead can’t return off injured reserve until Week 13. But if the Patriots can get Gronkowski and Mason back against the New York Jets in Week 12 and Burkhead can return in Week 13, then this offense could look much different from the one that managed just 10 points against the Titans.
Brady and the rest of the Patriots are optimistic.
“I’ve been at the stadium every day and everyone’s excited about — when you lose I think there’s a — you’re disappointed you lost because you put a lot of effort into it. But I think if you learn from the losses it becomes a positive and you say, ‘Guys, OK, we really clearly identified what we are not doing well, what we need to put more emphasis on,’ and a lot of times losses do that.
“And this week so much has been about our improvement and I think that when you look back on the film you gain confidence knowing that, great, we’ve executed really well a lot of the times or sometimes we haven’t and moving forward these are the things we’ve got to do well to execute well so that we can go play our best and having all our players out there obviously helps the cause. I mean, when you have your guys healthy and playing and practicing that’s only a positive and I think that can be a real positive for us moving forward.”
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