EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


February 6, 2012

Five fatal flaws Pats need to fix or continue to settle for heartbreak

INDIANAPOLIS — At least 25 NFL franchises would love to have issues like the New England Patriots this morning.

As we look ahead to 2012, the Pats again will be favored heavily in the AFC East, and no team in the conference holds an edge on them.

Look at the potential contenders.

Pittsburgh ... Yep, it's them or the Pats. They should be right there, but that defense is getting a tad grey.

Baltimore ... This was the Ravens year, but Lee Evans dropped the ball, and Billy Cundiff shanked it away. Ed Reed and Ray Lewis are OLD!

Houston ... Sure, if they get a healthy Matt Schaub and Mario Williams back, but remember this is a franchise with a history of mediocrity.

NY Jets ... Only if Mark Sanchez has an Epiphany.

The AFC West ... Norv Turner's return in San Diego assures that Philip Rivers will waste another season in what should be a Hall of Fame career.

And then there's the wild card, wherever Peyton Manning lands, if he lands anywhere.

So yeah, the Pats are in pretty solid shape. But solid, as we've seen for nearly a decade now, doesn't win Super Bowls.

"Special" wins Super Bowls.

So how do you upgrade the Patriots? Tom Brady, who turns 35 in August, has faltered repeatedly in the playoffs, at least since the knee injury. And Bill Belichick has been at least matched or maybe even outcoached by Tom Coughlin in the last two Super Bowls.

Here are what I believe are five fatal flaws for the Pats with my ideas for a quick and absolute fix.

1. Find a game manager — Count up the on-field flaws, just this Sunday: 10 men on the field for the first punt of the game; a late substitution on defense costing a penalty to negate a turnover; a timeout blown on a useless challenge.

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