Originally posted on NESN.com  |  Last updated 10/13/13
8 a.m. ET: The Patriots got Danny Amendola back last Sunday. They’re expected to have their starting running back, Stevan Ridley, on the field against the Saints. But one key offensive playmaker is still missing. Rob Gronkowski is expected to take another week off after not being cleared by Dr. James Andrews. The All-Pro tight end has yet to play this season after he underwent offseason forearm and back surgeries. The Patriots’ offense has struggled without Gronkowski. Tom Brady especially has been down. And that dates back to last season. Chris Wesseling of NFL.com wrote a column in June that basically summarized that the Patriots quarterback is Andy Dalton without Gronkowski. Brady completed just 58.9 percent of his passes without Gronk last season with 11 touchdowns, five interceptions and 7.1 yards per attempt. Those are very un-Brady-like numbers. They’re even worse this year. Brady’s completion percentage is just 56.6 without his star tight end. He’s thrown seven touchdowns and three interceptions and his yards per attempt sits at 6.2 — 1.3 below his career average. There’s no one thing that stands out about Brady’s game that he appears to be specifically struggling with. His accuracy is certainly off and he appears to be hesitating at times when throwing to his young receivers. But if anything, it seems like his struggles could just be directly linked to a lack of top-end targets. Brady lost Aaron Hernandez, Wes Welker, Danny Woodhead, Brandon Lloyd, Deion Branch and Gronk over the offseason. He’s been without Shane Vereen since Week 1, he’s had Amendola for just two games and Ridley missed last week. Julian Edelman has been the only constant holdover Brady has had. Brady almost looked like himself against the Falcons, who also happen to have the worst defense the Patriots have faced this season. The Saints don’t have as poor of a defensive unit as Atlanta, but they’re probably the second worst defense New England has faced this year. Unfortunately, the Saints also have the best offense the Patriots have faced this season. So, in order for New England to keep up, the offense is going to have to score points early and often. With Ridley back, the Saints should have to respect the Patriots’ run game more than the Bengals did last week. That means that at least New England’s play action will be more effective. For the Patriots to win, Brady, Kenbrell Thompkins, Aaron Dobson, Josh Boyce, Michael Hoomanawanui, Brandon Bolden, LeGarrette Blount, James Develin, Matthew Mulligan, Amendola, Ridley, Edelman and New England’s entire offensive line will have to step up. They’ll have to be on the same page and stop thinking about what their offense could be with Gronkowski and Vereen and start accepting what the unit is without them. The defense will also have to prove they’re the Top 10 unit that stats say they are. They’re allowing just 14 points per game so far — second best in the NFL. That number will likely rise after Sunday’s game, but limiting New Orleans would go a long way towards a victory. Stay here on NESN.com for all the updates throughout the day from Gillette Stadium, where we’ll be reporting live. Have a question for Doug Kyed? Send it to him via Twitter at @DougKyedNESN or send it here. Filed under: Doug Kyed, New England Patriots, Top Stories
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