Celtics Start Things Off Right

The Celtics began their regular season last night with a 121-105 drubbing of the Brooklyn Nets at TD Garden. The Celtics placed eight players in double figures last night.

While the Celtics may be fourth in Boston in terms of coverage and popularity st the moment while they rebuild, there is certainly much to be interested in as the team enters its second year under Brad Stevens.

DISH Network subscribers continue to miss out on the Celtics, as the Satellite provider dumped CSNNE in August, and it appears the sides are still very far apart. CSNNE struck back this week with a series of radio ads, but the station was still dark for DISH subscribers for opening night.

CSN New England Tips Switch Campaign Against Dish

Last night also saw another return to the Garden by Kevin Garnett, who was impressed with the young Celtics:

Kevin Garnett still bleeds green (Bulpett)

Rajon Rondo makes all the difference – Jackie MacMullan looks at the triumphant return of the Celtics PG. No mention of the trade demands she claimed earlier in the summer.

Get all the coverage from last night’s win at CelticsLinks.com.

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Are we almost done with the Tom Brady vs Peyton Manning comparisons for this week?

I don’t know about you, but it’s been old for a while now. Can we agree that they’re both among the all-time greats and just try to enjoy the experience of seeing them play?

It’s an easy topic for sports radio, which is why they’ve clung to it. It’s much easier to recite the same arguments over and over than it is to actually analyze the upcoming game.

You’re better off turning off the radios.

Heated rivalry turns corner with Darrelle Revis, Aqib Talib – Jeff Howe with a nice look at how each cornerback has been used this season and what we might expect for Sunday.

Pats should beware of Broncos’ Miller & Ware – Tom E Curran and Mike Giardi look at challenges from the Broncos defense.

Patriots face dynamic duo in Denver’s Miller and Ware – Glen Farley has more on the pass-rushing threats.

Patriots-Broncos through stats-based lens – Mike Reiss checks some of the relevant stats heading in.

Brady vs. Manning? It might come down to defense – David Pevear says this one might look different than past matchups.

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Remember Jimmy Young and Jimmy Myers?

The Boston sports broadcasting alumni are doing a weekly sports show on YouTube, called The Jimmy’s Sports Talk. Each Monday from 6:30 to 8:30 at the Nobscot Cafe in Framingham they are doing a live show.

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Oh yeah, there was some baseball game on last night? The San Francisco Giants won their third World Series in the last five years.

Your move, Red Sox.

Tom Brady’s Trade Value Will Never Be Higher

I mean, what else could the sports radio trolls conjure up today?

The previously washed-up Tom Brady submitted an almost perfect performance yesterday against the Chicago Bears at Gillette Stadium, as the “Let’s face it, they’re not a good team anymore” Patriots won their fourth in a row, this time a 51-23 shellacking of a Bears team in turmoil.

Now all the focus is on the Denver Broncos, who come to town on Sunday for a game which may decide home field in the AFC.

Pats, Broncos hitting crescendo heading into showdown – Tom E Curran looks ahead. He also has Darrelle Revis already eyeballing Broncos.

Tom Brady caps off brilliant stretch – Mike Reiss has the Patriots QB keeping things steady during the highs  and lows of this season.

Rob Gronkowski, Brandon LaFell have morphed New England Patriots offense from pedestrian to potent – Kevin Duffy looks at the two targets that have transformed the Patriots offense in recent weeks.

Brandon LaFell no second prize – Karen Guregian notes that the receiver has proved he was worth the signing.

Brady: I’ll take my offensive weapons over Manning’s – Wait, what? Brady has WEAPONZ? Since when, Phil Perry?

This is why Patriots picked up Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner – Ben Volin looks at the Patriots two biggest offseason acquisitions starting to hit their stride.

Lots of big ‘D’ contributors for Patriots – Adam Kurkjian notes that it wasn’t just the cornerbacks who stepped up yesterday.

Get the rest of the stories at PatriotsLinks.com.

Brandon Marshall a top topic on NFL TV shows – Chad Finn says that the Chicago WR’s weekly stint on Around the NFL should be interesting this week.

NBA may be at a high point – Finn’s Friday column was on the NBA and its television deals.

A new era for ESPN’s NBA Countdown; bashing Jay Cutler – Richard Deitsch’s media column looks at tension last season between Bill Simmons and Sage Steele on the ESPN NBA show, and a ton of other items.

“I don’t believe in damned curses…” Did something happen 10 years ago today?

Chili Monday In October

There is a chill in the air this morning as the temperatures were in the low 30’s as many began their day throughout New England.

In a related move, the Red Sox made a little news last night, as Chili Davis agreed to become their new hitting coach. Hopefully he does better than the last highly-regarded coach that came over from the A’s.

The Patriots-free weekend made for some interesting viewing and media consumption. The biggest story was Peyton Manning and his quest to overtake Brett Favre as the NFL’s all time leader in touchdown passes.

Manning and the Broncos crushed the San Francisco 49ers last night 42-17.

Notes/Links:

“Friday Night Lights” Author Fails in NY Times Column on Sports Culture – Matt Chatham goes scorched earth Fire-Joe-Morgan Style on a recent Buzz Bissinger column.

What brings Buzz nuzzling in for relevance now is his opinion piece featured in this weekend’s NY Times titled “The Boys in the Clubhouse.” Buzz has no credible experience in sports. but has staked his career on pretending to have sports world insight. As clueless as he is on the subject, he can prose a bit, so his parlor tricks speak well to crowds of similar inexperience.

Definitely worth the read.

Dan Shaughnessy decided to do an all “positive” column this weekend. It was about as dreadful and disingenuous as you would imagine. I don’t recommend it.

Today Steve Buckley says that the Patriots are much more interesting and “fun” to follow this year because it is not a given that they are going to win every game. That’s a media take if I’ve ever heard one. Stories and talking points are tougher to come up with when a team is dominant, easier when the team has ups and downs. Besides, how long has it been since it was a “given” that the team was going to dominate each week?

Why Are Pats Fans Such Crybabies? – I would normally not link to Eric Wilbur in this space, but Eric was nice enough to solicit my opinion for his weekend column on the subject of Patriots. Naturally he and I see things very differently, but he let me have my say, and I respect that.

If Jets don’t want Rex Ryan, TV will take him – Chad Finn looks at the possibility of a media career in the near future for Rex Ryan.

Only in the world of the Boston sports media would you rather have Aqib Talib than Darrelle Revis. A year ago this topic would’ve been laughed off the air. You’d rather have the guy who always gets injured right when they need him the most?? You’re insane! Not to mention all the talk about Talib’s background, and whether he was a bad influence in the locker room. He’s a poor (cheap) man’s Darrelle Revis! Now he was a leader of men, while Revis is a robot who plays on autopilot.

Rajon Rondo feels positive vibe – This really doesn’t read like a guy demanding to be traded. So whatever happened to that big Jackie MacMullen off-air “scoop?” Are was she just saying stuff to sound in the know?

Patriots Swat Away Jets Upset Plans

All season long we’ve been hearing about how terrible the Thursday night football games have been. Teams have been ragged, worn down, and not sharp when playing just four days after their previous game.

Last night the Patriots looked ragged, worn down and not sharp. The Jets hung tough all night long, running the ball at will against the Patriots, who were playing their first game without Jerod Mayo this season.

For many of those following or covering the team, the Thursday factor is no excuse. It may be for other teams, but for the Patriots, last night was just another example of how poor the team is. (“Putrid” according to a Boston.com headline.) Gary Tanguay was shouting on the postgame  “WINDOW CLOSED!”

It’s funny, as much as Shaughnessy and others like to claim how weak the AFC East is, the division games are usually some of the toughest on the schedule. Buffalo excepted, most of the time. Games with the Dolphins and Jets are more often than not, ugly slugfests. Winning two division games in four days is OK with me, no matter how it happens.

This morning some tried to create a controversy out of the ending of the game, when the officials moved Donta’ Hightower from over the long-snapper on the final field attempt.

Why did official help Patriots avoid penalty before Jets’ field goal got blocked?

The NFL pretty quickly shot this one down.

On WEEI this morning, they demanded to know why Belichick didn’t challenge the David Nelson catch with 23 seconds left to go, which looked like a bobble while standing out of bounds.

They had to be reminded by the producer/engineer that coaches can’t challenge under two minutes. They then changed it to demanding that Belichick should’ve used a timeout there to allow the officials time to look at it. They then quickly moved over to talking about how 1-5 over the next six games is possible.

So, Jason Cole, what happened to the “surprise” that the Patriots and Darrelle Revis were cooking up for the Jets last night?

Get the coverage this morning over at PatriotsLinks.com.

Media Columns:

Jim Nantz, Phil Simms part of the CBS showcase – Chad Finn on the CBS tandem, and notes on the MLB playoffs and NBA preseason.

Socci thinks Thursday NFL games come up too fast – Bill Doyle has the Patriots radio voice talking about the challenges of games like last night.

This week’s Sports Illustrated has a excerpt from Bill Parcells’ new book. – Parcells: A Football Life

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Exclusive Book Excerpt: The Belichick-Parcells Split

Before he built the Patriots powerhouse, Bill Belchick was the Jets’ head coach – for a mere 24 hours. His shocking resignation and flight to New England produced one of the most memorable press conferences in NFL history and sparked a fuel with rival Bill Parcells that still rages on. SI has an exclusive excerpt on the behind-the-scenes closed door coaches’ meetings, Charlie Weis’ plea for the head coach position and all the events leading up to the press conference from Parcells’ new book, Parcells: A Football Life

“I didn’t begrudge Bill getting another job somewhere else. In fact, I’m probably the one that got it for him.” – Parcells on Belichick

“I knew I did the right thing and I didn’t know where my career was going.” – Belichick

“I’ve told many coaches that friendship and loyalty is going to be more important than ambition. Some guys don’t realize that until after they’re done. I don’t bear animosity toward Charlie. I can say that with a straight face because I know what he is. His actions back then don’t bother me anymore” – Parcells on Weis’ departure from the Jets

Nuggets from the Bob Ryan Publicity Tour

With the release of his new book Scribe: My Life in Sports last week, Bob Ryan has been doing media interviews as part of the publicity campaign for the book.

One of the reappearing themes from the interviews is how treatment of the media by the teams and leagues has changed over the years, specifically the NBA.

Last week he talked to Ben Golliver of SI.com.

SI.com: There’s a great picture in the book of you typing from a courtside seat with a group of fans looking over your shoulder. How important was proximity to the quality of your writing, and do you hold out any hope that NBA owners might reconsider their decision to move writers away from courtside and up into the bleachers?

Ryan: Without question, the treatment of the media and the elimination of media courtside seating has adversely affected the writing ability of anyone who is covering the game, the way we were able to cover games. Not only was I able to see the game unimpeded, but I was able to hear – the oral part of the game was a very big deal. You could hear things, you had rapport with referees and coaches during the game. It was so vital. It kills me seeing some 5-year-old kid eating ice cream, sitting in a seat that I should be sitting at or some beat man should be sitting at.

It all started with Jack Kent Cooke moving the beat writers off the floor. In hindsight, if the Los Angeles Times had boycotted the Lakers and said, “We’re not covering you until you put our people back where we belong,” we would have headed this off at the pass 45 years ago. But they didn’t and it gradually took root, and one team after another after another eliminated courtside seating. Now you have what you have: you can’t see the game properly. In places like Boston, they don’t even treat local radio with respect. Local radio sits in the same angled corner where the media sits. I could never have written the stories I wrote and did as well as I did writing game stories — that’s what it was all about then, that’s not what it’s about now — if I did not have that courtside seating. They’ve wrecked the opportunity that we had.

Ryan did an interview this week with Ryan Glasspiegel of The Big Lead, and added some more to this topic:

RG: It might be the case that I don’t have an NBA franchise that I really root for, and I just watch the league as a whole, so I’m probably thinking about it more as a writer.

BR: I’m speaking as a fan who happened to write. And I happened to have season tickets for 22 years — from 1978-2000. I still have Red Sox tickets. So I always relate to the fan experience. As far as writing, it’s very annoying what they’ve done to us. They treat the writers like cow dung. They care not one lick about the print press. They are so close to charging us to get in that it’s frightening. That’s a whole other matter.

RG: Wait, at this point in your career, you go and get credentialed and they send you into crappy seats?!

BR: I’m no better off than any other writer. At the Boston Garden they put me with the regular press, which is a terrible seat in the corner. That’s the regular press. The beat men for the Boston Globe, the Boston Herald, and any of the other New England papers or visiting writers are stuck in the corner. Even home radio is stuck there because they don’t care about either entity anymore.

They care about one thing: Filling the courtside seats with people who have enough disposable income to overspend for them. And they care about television. That’s it. Everything else is a bother.

It should be emphasized that Ryan is mostly talking about basketball here, and the importance of being courtside for someone who is reporting on the game. For other sports, it isn’t as important to be right there, and in fact, the view for the other sports is probably better from a higher angle.

Speaking of other sports, Ryan has had about enough of football.

My personal premise on football is that it wouldn’t bother me at all if they stopped playing in the next five minutes. I can live without football. The sports smorgasbord has any number of other activities that could satisfy us over a 12-month period. We don’t need football.

He goes on to explain why – mostly the impact it has on the well-being of the participants later in life.

Grantland had a tremendous column by Bryan Curtis on Ryan, which examines the legacy he is leaving behind in the world of sports media.

He also mentions something I think is very important, and which is something that gets a finger-wag from media types today. The rooting aspect.

“[Sportswriters] say, ‘I never root. I only root for the story,’” Ryan said as he drove through town. “Not me. I want the team to win.”

Ryan was a writer-fan. In Boston, this wasn’t uncommon. “They all are out there,” said Larry Bird. “Not just Bob. They cared. They just wanted you to win. In New York, they want you to lose so they have better stuff to write.”

Ryan’s colleague (and competitor) Dan Shaughnessy may have invented the “rooting for the story” catchphrase, as it is a tenet that he lives by. Curtis explains though, that Ryan rooting for the team did not mean he wasn’t critical.

Now, a rooting sportswriter tends to get people flexing their J-school diplomas. So it’s worth explaining just how Ryan’s fandom manifested itself. He wasn’t Johnny Most yelling into a microphone. Ryan was the kind of Celtics fan who demanded good play and personnel management. Anything less he took personally — and litigated in the Globe.

Now, to me, that is what I want. Too often I’m accused by some of simply wanting cheerleaders for reporters. That’s not the case, I want the media to demand excellence from the teams that I root for, as Curtis explains, there is a difference between wanting the team you cover to win, and homerism. I don’t want homers or cheerleaders. But I don’t want the reporters and columnists seemingly rooting against the teams I follow.

Is Bob Ryan the last to understand this? At the very least, he’s among a dwindling few.

Bruins Slow Start Continues With Last Second Loss

The Bruins have struggled to score in the early going this season, and while they played a littler better yesterday, goals were still hard to come by, and the end result – a Colorado goal with 0.4 seconds left to break a 1-1 tie was depressing.

Game Stories/Commentary:

Avs beat the clock, and Bruins 
at Garden – Steve Conroy

Bruins lose to Avalanche on last-second goal – Amalie Benjamin

Boston Bruins lose a shocker as scoring drought continues – Mike Loftus

Bruins’ misfiring offense leads to thin margin of error – Fluto Shinzawa

Three things that are wrong with the Bruins right now – DJ Bean

Colorado beats Bruins, 2-1, on last-second goal – Mark Divver.

Bruins need to reverse course fast – Joe McDonald.

What we learned from the Bruins’ 2-1 loss – Joe Haggerty.

Conroy also had a feature in the Improper Bostonian on goalkeeper Tuukka Rask – The Rask Factor

Get all the rest at BruinsLinks.com.

The Patriots are on a very short week as they face the New York Jets on Thursday night, and will do so minus Jerod Mayo and Steven Ridley, both of whom are reportedly lost for the season.

The team’s win in Buffalo was an encouraging one in many aspects, though don’t tell that to the Boston Globe/Boston.com Twitter mafia, who couldn’t find much positive to take away from the win.

Brady & Company: Little Things Pay Off Big – Matt Chatham looks at narrative crunch time coming on the WEAPONZ talk.

Jerod Mayo’s duties will fall upon multiple Patriots – Jeff Howe looks at how the Patriots will attempt to fill the void.

Fox fumbled its priorities in AFC debut – Chad Finn was not impressed with the debut of the “cross-flex” system.

Get all the other coverage from PatriotsLinks.com.

A  few last items:

Mike Napoli slated to undergo surgery for sleep disorder – Rob Bradford has quick report on surgery for the Red Sox first baseman, who recently shaved his beard in preparation for this.

Rich Gedman on list for Red Sox hitting coach – Peter Abraham says the former Sox catcher could be in play to fill the open position.

Bill Russell, K.C. Jones treated like ‘Rock’ stars at Alcatraz – On Sunday, Baxter Holmes had his farewell to the Globe, a longform piece on a 1956 visit to the notorious prison by the USF stars.

Media Circus: Keith Olbermann on burying the hatchet with ESPN – Richard Deitsch with a two-part media column and interview. This is part one.

Keith Olbermann’s future; Jim Calhoun moves to broadcasting – This is part two.

Bruins Drop The Puck Tonight As NHL Season Opens

The Bruins get back on the ice tonight as the regular season begins with a nationally televised game (7:30pm, NBC Sports Network) against the Philadelphia Flyers at TD Garden.

Despite some personnel losses, the Bruins are still considered one of the top teams in the NHL. They’ll look to get back to the Stanley Cup Finals but will face some tough challenges.

Bruins doing their best in salary cap struggle – Fluto Shinzawa looks at how the Bruins were impacted by the salary cap coming into this season.

Bruins hope to follow Blackhawks model en route to Cup – Stephen Harris has the B’s looking to emulate the success of Chicago, who had to cut ties with some players for Cap purposes after their 2010 title, but still won another Cup. in 2013.

Get all the links on the Bruins at BruinsLinks.com.

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Another local team starts their season tonight, as the Boston Brawlers of the FXFL (Fall Experimental Football League) play their first game tonight against the Omaha Mammoths.

The league consists of four teams – The Brawlers, the Mammoths, the Brooklyn Bolts and the Florida (Miami) Blacktips. The hope is the the league can develop into a developmental or minor league for the NFL, similar to the NBA D-League.

Tonight’s game will be broadcast on NESN Plus at 8:00pm.

The Brawlers roster has several players who have spent some time with the Patriots, including offensive linemen Jon Halapio (6th round pick in 2014) and R.J. Mattes and wide receiver Wilson Van Hooser.

Beep. Beep. Beep. That Sound You Hear Is Media Walking Back.

I never said Tom Brady was finished.

You knew the Patriots would bounce back big this week!

We were only criticizing what was happening on the field!

Oh, so its the media’s fault the Patriots played poorly in their first four games?

It’s the Bengals! Wake me when they actually win a big game.

And on and on and on. There is a lot of walking back of #hotsportztakes coming through.

I’m also fond of The team finally listened to the media, and is doing the things we wanted them to do all along narrative coming from the likes of Tim Benz.

Yes, thank you sports radio, for all your brave criticism of the last week. We owe ya one!

As Benz noted, Al Michael and Cris Collinsworth spent a good chunk of last night’s broadcast pointing out the volume of criticism and cynicism that had been aimed at Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and the Patriots over the last week, since the debacle in Kansas City, and how much of it was over-the-top in terms of reality.

I’m not much of a Collinsworth fan, but it was good to hear someone actually attempt to inject a bit of perspective and rationale to the situation.

Get all the reaction and coverage from the game at PatriotsLinks.com.

A few media columns, items for today:

Tom Brady a hot topic on NFL studio programs – Chad Finn looks at the chatter over Brady on the networks yesterday.

Sunday Night Football’s Al Michaels still at top of his game – Yesterday, Finn had a feature in the Sunday paper on the NBC broadcaster.

Turner Sports to rotate Anthony, Hill and Webber in place of Kerr – Richard Deitsch looks at the TNT NBA broadcast plans and a bunch of other media items.

Bob Ryan’s Memoir will be in stores tomorrow. I’ve been working my way through it, and as you would imagine, it is fascinating. It starts with Dave Cowens deciding to retire from the Celtics in Ryan’s hotel room, and continues on a heavy Celtics/Red Sox theme for much of the book.

Ben Golliver of SI.com talked to Ryan about the book:

Ten questions with Bob Ryan: Celtics tales, NBA’s G.O.A.T. and ‘Scribe’

The Globe Magazine ran an excerpt from the book: Bob Ryan on Larry Bird: ‘He possessed a total game’

Can Patriots Bounce Back Against Bengals?

According to most of the population of New England, it seems that the Patriots are DONE as a playoff contending football team.

The game has passed Bill Belichick by both as coach and GM, Tom Brady doesn’t have WEAPONZ and is disgruntled at the organization, Josh McDaniels is incompetent, and Bob Kraft is CHEAP.

Coming off that Monday night drubbing at the hands of the Kansas City Chiefs, I can understand a certain amount of consternation at the possibilities for this team. I also understand the schadenfreude that non-Patriots fans and media are enjoying right now.

But this is over the top. I have not seen a week like this. The piling on and glee with which not only national analysts like Marshall Faulk and Trent Dilfer  have engaged in is distasteful enough, but even usually level-headed local reporters have seemingly done the heel-turn and declared Gillette a disaster area with no hope of survivors.

Some look at Sunday’s night’s game and see no way the team can turn things around in time. John Dennis, in his chat yesterday, said he thinks the Cincinnati game will be even worse than the KC game. Hard to imagine.

The media would rather be three months early on a burial than two seconds late. Their eagerness to bury and take shots at Bill Belichick and the Patriots is childish and unattractive.

Based on the pathetic showing of Monday night, a bit of smug satisfaction was to be expected. I’m not sure I expected it to snowball into The Patriots are a 5-11 team!

Can they turn things around and beat the Bengals on NBC Sunday night? It won’t be easy, but yes, they can. Will they? I sure hope so, I don’t know if I can take another week of this.

Get all the coverage at PatriotsLinks.com.

Tuning in: Root canal better than watching Patriots – Bill Doyle says that since “it’s like pulling teeth trying to get anything insightful out of Belichick” we need to rely on the nuanced expertise of people like Steve Young, Tony Dungy Trent Dilfer, Mike Tirico and Jon Gruden.

I don’t know about you, but I can hardly wait to hear Cris Collinsworth weigh in on this.

Derek Jeter’s website promises candor, but should we believe? – Chad Finn looks at Derek Jeter’s new website and whether it can be what it says it will be.

If you haven’t checked out Matt Chatham’s site Football by Football which is a similar concept, you should do so, it’s one of the best new sites out there.

Dennis & Callahan Edges Toucher & Rich, While Sports Hub 3d, WEEI 5th in Summer Ratings – If you missed it earlier in the week, Finn looked at the summer ratings book, and Dennis and Callahan and Minihane edged Toucher and Rich by .1 to finish second in their time slot, while T&R finished third.

It’s the end of an era at the Boston Herald:

Sports editor Hank Hryniewicz is calling it a career. Congratulations to him.

Maine broadcaster Bruce Glasier dies at age 69 – I grew up in NH, but my dad always got his weather from WCSH Channel 6 in Portland. Thus I got many of my early sports highlights from Bruce Glasier. Even though my dad isn’t a sports fan, I got to see the highlights because WCSH, unlike the Boston channels, did their sports report before the weather, rather than after it. Many Larry Bird highlights were narrated by Glasier in my home.

Enjoy the weekend.

Patriots 2014 First-Quarter Review

This one’s difficult to write. I began it before halftime.

New England sits at 2-2, sandwiching two wins (at Minnesota and vs. Oakland) between a grim season-opener at Miami and a listless effort in Kansas City. (And after they got one-room-schoolhouse disciplined by the Chiefs, the term “listless effort” drips with kindness compared to most descriptions we could think of.)

Monday night’s palindromic 41-14 loss in KC will send this team in one of two directions: they’ll either figure it out, come together, and get their requisite double-digit wins, or they’ll continue on this path and fail to live up to expectations. After last night, fans find it difficult to consider anything other than the latter.

Some thoughts on the season so far:

RECEIVERS. Okay, what the hell? Last year  by Game Four, then-rookie Aaron Dobson had 11 receptions for 118 yards and a touchdown. This year he has one catch for 13 yards and a growing collection of healthy scratches. In 2013, then-rookie Kenbrell Thompkins had 15 catches for 257 yards and three TDs through four games. This year, six for 53, plus a couple of healthy scratches as well.

Last year by this time, then-rookie Josh Boyce had one catch for 24 yards, a virtual career compared to his zero for zero due to his current practice squad status. Danny Amendola in 2013? Ten catches, 104 yards, all from his very first game in a New England uniform. Amendola suffered a groin injury that made a bris seem preferable, forcing him off the field for the ensuing three games. This season he has three grabs for 16 yards (and as many last night as all of the above pass-catchers, i.e., zero).

So what the hell happened to the receivers? Why did what had the potential of a bust-out season become merely a bust? Some potential reasons below.

OFFENSIVE LINE. These guys have yielded to pressure like gullible teenagers. With rookies Bryan Stork and Cameron Fleming manning the center and guard spots, respectively, maybe they have the formation that will work out for the best (despite Fleming getting roundhoused like a palooka at one point).  The raw numbers from this year actually depict similar pressure on Brady as in the first few games of last year (as submitted by @PatriotsSB49 on Twitter), but – combined with some curious play-calling, the offense has seemed far more consistently feckless than they have in years.

PLAY CALLING: Hey, Josh McDaniels? Maybe run the ball. Maybe, when you travel to the loudest, or second-loudest, or however-loud-it’s-always-louder-than-Gillette-Stadium-gets stadium, maybe avoid passing on the first three downs, punting, then giving the Chiefs the ball for the rest of the quarter? Just an idea.

And, no go on those bubble screens any more? You know, the ones where Julian Edelman, your best receiver, gets the ball in space? No viability in putting Dobson out there for a pass longer than 15 yards? No sense in running your biggest back, Stevan Ridley, on third and two?

When the Patriots mix it up, they can use play-action, which seems about the only way the Patriots receivers can get open. How much yardage they gain on the ground doesn’t matter as much as the fact that they make the defense look for it. In Miami, New England passed 56 times and rushed only 20 (for 89 yards). At Minnesota, they had 37 rushes for 150 yards, actually averaging less than they did in Miami at just over four yards per carry, but with enough consistency to get the job done.

And why the hell isn’t Tim Wright getting more looks? Is he not a matchup problem for defenses? Can’t they just pull an Ochocinco and call a down-and-out for him twice a game? Seems like he should be contributing more at this point. I mean, not all new players can be Danny Woodhead and offer major contributions after one week in Foxboro, but a player who caught 54 passes for Tampa Bay last year should have more than four with his new team.

Christ, remember Danny Woodhead?

BRADY: Because of our first three topics, Brady hasn’t been himself (or, perish the thought, maybe this is what he has become START GAROPPOLO NOW Oh Heavens help us). He forces the ball to Rob Gronkowski despite Gronk getting double- and triple-teamed. He forces the ball to Edelman despite having enough field in front of him to run for a first down. His performance in KC (14 of 23, 159 yards, one TD, two INTs) shows the kind of pressure he was under.

Last year he seemed to trust Thompkins. He sure as hell trusted Amendola, at least for one game. Now, not so much.

PERSONNEL: Some iffy choices by the coaches (see receivers issues above). Plus, hard to imagine this defense performing worse with lineman Tommy Kelly aboard. Say what you want about Logan Mankins’ decline and his price tag, but he would have offered some stability to a crew that has seen more shuffling than your grandmother’s deck of cards on a rainy afternoon of Crazy Eights.

On defense (and I refuse to focus on defense, because seriously, I can’t), where are the playmakers? If Chandler Jones doesn’t sack somebody, does anything happen? Is Revis Island more like Revis Sandbar, showing up half the time and then disappearing? And can someone get Rob Ninkovich some new cleats?

HEART. Or, as we say around here, HAHT. Where is it? Why does it seem that, when they get behind, most Patriots players seem to look around, waiting, hoping someone else makes a play?

Think about it. Taking size out of the equation, if you found yourself in a vicious cockfight, which New England player would you want by your side?

I’d take Edelman. Matthew Slater. Rob Goddang Gronkowski, who – bless his soul – had the good taste and wherewithal to avoid a Gronk spike Monday night after his late TD.

Who else? Jones? I’d say so. But Vince Wilfork? Ninkovich? I have to think about them. I would not have to think about putting Mankins on this list.

Brady? In a fight? I don’t know. Maybe he’s gotten weary. Maybe too much has been put on him. The coaches can’t – or won’t – depend on the running game. The O-line can’t give him the consistent time and comfort he needs in the pocket. The defense can’t get him the ball back quickly, if Monday night’s fecal-sluice-bag of a game is any indication.

The 2013 Patriots made it all the way to the AFC Championship with an injury-depleted roster. With many of those injured players back playing, the 2014 Patriots suffered their worst loss since 2005 on their way to a .500 record through the season’s first quarter. I don’t know exactly what’s happening. Maybe they don’t, either. But in Buffalo in two weeks – after a presumed loss to Cincinnati and a 2-3 record – they’d better figure it out.

Chris Warner can be consoled at [email protected] and on Twitter at @cwarn89