, Newburyport, MA


October 29, 2013

Patriots still a work in progress at season's midpoint


Add starting right tackle Sebastian Vollmer to the list of sidelined players. He didn’t return after injuring his right leg in the second quarter.

Brady appeared to have a swollen right hand in pictures shown on television and threw only eight passes in the first half, nearly all of them short. But his hand “is perfect,” he said. “I’ll be out there next week. You don’t have to worry about that.”

He has plenty of time to improve on the worst statistical year of his career.

“It’s still early in the season,” Cole said yesterday. “We just want to hit our stride at the right time. As the year gets older and older, then you want to get better and better. And I believe we’re doing that each week, getting better and better.”

That may be because the opposition doesn’t.

Like the Pittsburgh Steelers.

They visit Gillette Stadium on Sunday with a 2-5 record, tied for the second worst in the AFC.

The Patriots have the NFL’s best home regular-season record, 77-15, since they moved there in 2002.

This season, they’ve played just two teams who currently have winning records, losing to the Cincinnati Bengals 13-6 and beating the New Orleans Saints 30-27 on a touchdown pass with 5 seconds left. Only two of their six wins have been by more than seven points.

So, with the season already half over, what is the identity of the Patriots?

“I don’t know,” left guard Logan Mankins said. “Once we get 60 minutes of good football, then I think we’ll be where we want to be.”

They may not have to be that consistent, considering the rest of the schedule.

The Patriots have a bye week after facing the Steelers then play two teams, the Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos, who now have winning records. But each of their last five opponents is under .500.

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