While waiting for their once-potent offense to click, the New England Patriots keep knocking off opponents.
The NFL's top offensive team last season edged the New York Jets 13-10 on Thursday night despite getting just nine first downs. Four days earlier, they squeaked past the Buffalo Bills by two points on a field goal with 5 seconds left. Ugly wins, but wins nonetheless.
"We have a long way to go," Tom Brady said. "No one's coming to rescue and save the day, so we've just got to fight through it and have got to work harder and do better and try to be more consistent."
Five things to know from the Patriots home-opening win:
1. CATCHING ON: Brady knows it will take time to get in sync with his three rookie wide receivers. On Thursday, his most important connection with one of them started the Patriots (2-0) toward their second victory over an AFC East rival. He connected with a wide-open Aaron Dobson for a 39-yard touchdown pass on the first series. The drive covered 81 yards, more than a third of the Patriots total of 232.
"This was a dream come true," Dobson, a second-round draft pick, said of his first NFL catch, "something I was dreaming about since I was a young kid."
But Brady knows the rookies — Dobson, Kenbrell Thompkins and Josh Boyce — need more time to become consistent contributors.
"It's unrealistic for them to feel like they can do it like 10-year veterans," Brady said. "That's not what they are."
2. GENO'S GAFFES: Rookie quarterback Geno Smith had the Jets (1-1) within range for a tying field goal early in the fourth quarter. But with the ball at the Patriots 27-yard line, his pass was intercepted at the 11 by Aqib Talib with 11:13 left. About 7 minutes later, he was picked off by Alfonzo Dennard at the Patriots 31. Then Talib clinched the win with another interception that he returned to the Jets 32 with 38 seconds remaining.
"That last one was a terrible mistake," Smith said. "I tried to get a back-shoulder throw and (Talib) turned around. He's a wily (veteran) and that defense, they're smart, and you can tell they're well-coached. He got that interception at the end of the game and it hurt."
Smith completed 15 of 35 passes for 214 yards with three interceptions and four sacks.
3. BRADY'S NEW GO-TO GUY: With Wes Welker in Denver and Danny Amendola and Rob Gronkowski sidelined, Brady kept looking for five-year veteran Julian Edelman. At least he knows the system. Edelman caught a career-high 13 passes and has 20 for the season after getting just 69 in his first four seasons.
"He is kind of a Welker clone-ish," Jets coach Rex Ryan said, "Not as good as him, but he's pretty darn good."
Welker went to the Broncos as a free agent and Amendola replaced him as the slot receiver. Now Edelman is filling that role.
"You learn a lot from watching a great player like Wes," Edelman said. "That's all in the past. We're just trying to make our offense better right now."
4. TURNOVERS: After turning the ball over three times against Buffalo, the Patriots did not have any. The Jets gave up three interceptions and a fumble against New England. Talib forced the fumble in the first quarter that Devin McCourty returned 44 yards to set up the first of Stephen Gostkowski's two field goals.
"As a defensive player, that's what you love," McCourty said, "to go out there and shut the other team's offense down and keep giving the ball back to your offense."
5. TEMPERS: The Jets' frustration boiled over late in the game after Talib's second interception. Center Nick Mangold was called for a questionable late hit when Talib finally stepped out of bounds, but what wasn't questionable was the punch thrown by left tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson in the ensuing scuffle that led to his ejection, or the ejection of right guard Willie Colon for pushing an official. No Patriots were penalized. "All heck broke loose," Ryan said. "Apparently our team was the only one involved in it."
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