We've said from the beginning that the Patriots will go as far as Tom Brady takes them. Even if that means they begin the season without their top five receivers from 2012. And that still holds, even as the list of unavailable pass-catchers grows.
Danny Amendola, signed this offseason to replace Wes Welker, had a huge debut against the Bills last Sunday. He caught 10 passes for 104 yards. Against the Jets on Thursday night, he will almost certainly be sidelined with a groin injury. Which means that Brady will have to rely on rookies like wide receiver Josh Boyce and hope that running back Stevan Ridley, who fumbled twice in Buffalo, can pick up the slack.
"He expects you to do the right thing, no matter who you are," Boyce said of Brady (via the Boston Globe). "Any receiver, he expects you to be where he wants you to be at the right time, so you have to be there. I think I’m doing pretty good with it, picking up on where he wants me to be, timing, things like that. I think I’m doing pretty good."
Ridley, meanwhile, was benched in the second half of Week 1's game because he put the ball on the ground twice.
"I talked to Stevan," Belichick said. "Look, every player has the same responsibilities every week. Be ready to play, be ready to go. That's their job. They can't control coaches decisions. Coaches decisions are coaches decisions. They control their preparation and they control their performance when they're in the game. That's what a player's job is. That's always what it has been for everybody."
Fumbles aside, Brady has Ridley's back.
“I know Stevan is a very mentally tough kid,” the quarterback said earlier this week. “I love having him back there. I love giving the ball to him and watching him run.”
It's the right thing to say. Then again, it's not like Brady has much choice.
Vegas has the Jets as heavy underdogs but if they find a way to win, they'll be 2-0, atop the division and suddenly the narrative changes from "Rex Ryan's the ringleader of the NFL's biggest circus" to "What's wrong with the Pats?"