Pats win, but injuries and offensive execution are concerns
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By KYLE HIGHTOWER
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) Try as he might, Tom Brady appeared to be a little stumped when he was asked the question that continues to hover over the Patriots following their latest victory.
Has the offense been good enough this season?
"We'll see," Brady said before pausing for a few seconds. "We're 6-0, so try to get to 7-0."
It was a perfectly neutral answer about a unit that clearly has things to clean up after needing a big effort from the defense to secure a 35-14 win over the Giants on Thursday night.
The Patriots have had to make several adjustments on offense already this season with starting center David Andrews (blood clots), left tackle Isaiah Wynn (foot) and fullback James Develin (neck) all currently on injured reserve. They also entered Thursday missing running back Rex Burkhead (foot) and receiver Phillip Dorsett (hamstring), both inactive.
The Patriots wound up having to make even more changes on the fly during the game.
Receiver Josh Gordon left in the second quarter with a left knee injury when he tried to tackle Giants linebacker Markus Golden during his 42-yard fumble return for a touchdown. Gordon got caught under a tangle of players and had his left leg pinned underneath him. He needed assistance as he limped off the field and did not return.
After tight end Matt LaCosse (knee) and fullback Jacob Johnson (shoulder) also left the game with injuries, the Patriots mostly stuck to a formation featuring one running back, one tight end and three receivers, also known as an "11" personnel grouping.
In the passing game it meant more snaps for rookie receivers Jakobi Meyers and Gunner Olszewski. Meyers caught four passes for 54 yards and Olszewski had two catches for 34 yards.
Brady finished with his second straight 300-yard game, but he's also been sacked seven times in two games and has thrown two of his three interceptions in those games. One of the sacks on Thursday ended in Golden's scoop-and-score return.
Brady said he hopes the extra snaps will benefit the young receivers going forward, particularly as they get more comfortable in the playbook.
"I always said when I was young, I just was trying to be on time and not forget my playbook anywhere. These guys are kind of in a different role than that. They're playing in games and contributing," Brady said. "That's what we needed. Anyone who's on the active roster has to be ready to go. So, it was just good for those guys to catch some balls and gain some confidence."
The good news for New England's entire offense is it has 10 days to tend to its issues before visiting the struggling New York Jets (0-4).
"It is a game of adversity and something that we were prepared for," receiver Julian Edelman said of the limitations the Patriots are having to confront. "It wasn't as pretty as we wanted it, but we were able to get it done. Hats off to defense and special teams for once again doing unbelievable things. We just have to hold our bargain up more."
The defense forced four more turnovers against the Giants, bringing its total to 16 (14 interceptions, two fumble recoveries). Linebacker Kyle Van Noy's 22-yard fumble return for a score was the defense's third touchdown this season. The Patriots surrendered their first passing touchdown of the season, but still have only allowed three touchdowns (two rushing, one passing) in 2019.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
Gordon's injury could be a big one for the receiving group if he misses any games. He is the Patriots' chief deep threat and his presence helps open the field for Edelman. Meyers and Olszewski have shown ability, but they are still building trust with Brady.
Van Noy continues to show different facets of his game each week. This time it was his fumble return for a score that gave the Patriots a much needed two-touchdown cushion in the fourth quarter.
Left tackle Marshall Newhouse allowed a sack and quarterback hit against the Giants. He's given up four sacks in his five starts in place of the injured Wynn.
The Patriots now have five non-offensive touchdowns. They returned two blocked punts for touchdowns and have two interceptions and a fumble return for scores. The team record for most non-offensive touchdowns in a season is nine in 1961 and 2010.
The Patriots visit the New York Jets (0-4) on Oct. 21 for their second matchup of the season. New England beat the Jets 30-14 last month.
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Updated October 11, 2019