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Five Questions For Three Patriots Blogger

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No longer satisfied with the answers of a single blogger, I filled my pack with provisions and headed out into the foothills of Massachusetts. When I emerged, hours later, I had bagged three bloggers, all of them able to answer my arcane questions about the very nature of the New England Patriots.

I want to give a shout out to the fine folks at Pats Pulpit, NE Patriots Draft and Patriots Daily. It was great corresponding with everyone, and getting a variety of answers should generate a little more debate amongst you, the readers of the best most Falcons blog on the net. Check out all the answers after the jump.

Dave the Falconer: Have Tom Brady's struggles thus far been related to rust coming off an injury, or is there something else going on there?

MaPatsFan, Pats Pulpit: I think rust is a legitimate concern for us Patriots fans.  Brady has said that he feels his mechanics are not quite what they used to be.  I've also read, from Brady and his receivers, that they're still working on their connection.  It's especially hard for Joey Galloway, our #3.  It's easier with Randy Moss and Wes Welker considering the 2007 streak, but there's still a year's worth of stuff to make up.

NE Patriots Draft: I think it is rust, but more because of the lack of timing.  Brady has looked a bit tentative at times, presumably due to the injury, but quick routes and dump-offs are being missed.  That leads me to believe that after a few more games, the timing will click back in.

Patriots Daily: Rust is definitely a factor. However, he's still adjusting to the knee, and because of that, his footwork isn't what it needs to be. He's been throwing off the back foot more, and it has impacted his accuracy. He was also flattened by Albert Haynesworth in the preseason and injured his shoulder a little bit. It hasn't been mentioned too much as a problem, but you've got to think that the rust, the knee and the shoulder all are conspiring against him right now. I fear it may be a few more weeks before we see him back to his old self. A comparison often made around here is Peyton Manning last year. He struggled, and the Colts struggled in the early going because of his knee surgery, but he eventually put it together. We're hoping for similar results here.

DtF: I've had the chance to watch your running game quite a bit over the last couple of years, and I have to Laurence Maroney ever going to get it going? Do you guys need a true feature back, or does the committee approach work well?

PP: We've been hoping, for many years, that Laurence would breakout as that workhorse back we've all been looking for.  At this stage, and given what I've seen, I don't see it happening.  I think the backfield by committee approach is here to stay in New England.  In 2008, we were #1 in the AFC East and #6 in the NFL; it seems to work for us.

NPD: I think Maroney is running very hard this year.  He is taking a yard gain this year, where before he would dance and end up losing ground.  He has had a few negative plays, but those were mainly the fault of our left tackle.

PD: Maroney has had injury problems, and some question his toughness. However down the stretch in 2007 and in the first two playoff games that season, he was everything you want in a running back. Last year he missed most of the season after injuring his shoulder. The Patriots seem to favor the committee approach just to try and limit the wear and tear on their backs. Fred Taylor looked good last week against the Jets, and I can see him getting an increased role this week. Sammy Morris had been their best back in the first half of the last two seasons, but wore down as the season went on. I think the Patriots are trying to keep them all fresh, while at the same time allowing them to play enough to stay sharp. It's a tough balance to achieve, especially when you're throwing the ball so much. I'm hoping you'll see a bigger commitment to the run until Brady can get his issues settled down.

DtF: If you were the Falcons, how would you defend against Randy Moss?

PP: Force him away from his sideline routes.  He's a gazelle, not a jackrabbit.  While he's learning to be the latter, he's much happier on routes that take a bit of time to get up to speed.  Once he IS up to that speed, he's hard to catch.  Turn him inside or under 10-15 yards and he struggles.

NPD: I would bump him at the line, and roll a safety over to his side all day.  The Patriots haven't shown that they can stretch the field across from Moss, and the Jets used this tactic to perfection.

PD: Either a straight double-team, or a tight man-to-man coverage with safety help over the top. That seems to be the most effective, though Moss has made some adjustments by going over the middle more this preseason and regular season - more than I've ever seen him do. The Jets had success with Darelle Revis last week, but I'm sure it also helped that Wes Welker wasn't playing. If Welker is in the game, it's going to be tough for any defense to completely shut off Moss. 

DtF: With Richard Seymour traded and Jerod Mayo hurt, how is your front seven looking thus far?

PP: As a 4-3, I'd say they're ok.  I'm still waiting for a strong pass rusher to emerge; I thought Derrick Burgess would be that guy, but I haven't seen it yet.  As a 3-4, I'm concerned with the back 4.  We're really struggling to fill the ranks at ILB with Tedy Bruschi retired and Jerod Mayo out for 5 more weeks.  I'm worried at this point.

NDP: After looking silly against the Bills and Fred Jackson, the front seven looked much improved against the Jets.  Gary Guyton, filling in for Jerod Mayo, is the key to stopping the run this week.

PD: It's been decent. Mayo's injury hurt a lot more than the trade of Seymour. Mayo was to be the centerpiece of the defense, and a big reason why they were doing more 4-3 formations. The idea was that Mayo would be freed up to make plays all over the field. Gary Guyton has replaced Mayo for the time being, and though he led the team in tackles against the Jets, he had some struggles out there. Adalius Thomas was pretty much invisible last week, and that just can't happen. The run defense has been solid overall, with Vince Wilfork and Ty Warren still in place up front. The problem has been getting pressure on the quarterback, and that is where they need improvement. Mike Wright and Jarvis Green have been the primary replacements for Seymour, and need to get to the QB for the defense to be more well-rounded.

DtF: What's your prediction for the game on Sunday?

PP:  My sense is this is the game Brady will come out. I've been listening to his pressers enough to know he's aggravated by his performance and will be working hard to make an impact this coming Sunday.  However, the Falcons have a lot to play for, specifically dominance of the NFC South or, at the very least, stay tied with the Saints.  I think this game could go either way, but it'll be very close: 24-21.

NDP: 27-24 Patriots in overtime.  The Falcons are a great team, but I feel like they don't have the secondary to stay with the Patriot receivers.  If they are able to get to Brady early though, Atlanta has the ability to win by double-digits.

PD: I really hate predictions, probably because I'm so awful at them. I don't see Brady solving all his problems in one week, so that's a plus for the Falcons. I hope there is a bigger focus on the running game, especially since the Falcons have lost Peria Jerry. Matt Ryan should have success throwing to Tony Gonzalez whenever he wants, but I think the Patriots defense will make a big play or two this week. The home field will mean a lot to the Patriots in terms of comfort especially for Brady and the offense. I see a pretty tight game here, maybe 24-17 Patriots.

Thanks again to everyone who participated! Here's to a great game on Sunday.