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Quarterback was receiver -- of hits

FOXBOROUGH -- Tom Brady stood at the podium and took all the bullets. Nobody bothered to ask about the Receiver Who Must Not Be Named and Brady didn't give anyone a chance to talk about lack of pass protection, blown assignments, or receivers running the wrong routes. Your local quarterback is secure enough to take all the hits, during and after the game.

``An ugly game all around," he offered, about an hour after the Patriots' unsightly 19-17 opening-game victory over the Buffalo Bills at Gillette Stadium. ``Offensively, we could never get in a rhythm. We need to play a lot better on offense."

How bad was the first half? The Patriots amassed 3 net yards passing. Brady went 3 for 11 for 30 yards and was sacked three times for 27 yards before halftime.

New England football fans, ever trusting, loyal, and anxious to pay homage to everything the organization does, were booing the offense with nine minutes to go in the first half of the first game of the season. Julian Tavarez certainly would not have approved, but Brady just shook his head and said, ``I don't blame 'em. I don't think we gave 'em much to cheer. They want to see us do some things offensively, put the ball in the end zone, and we turned the ball over, you know, we can't complete a pass. I'd be booing up there, too, if I were them."

Exactly 12 seconds into their new season, the Patriots trailed, 7-0, and Brady already had lost a fumble. Fans were just getting settled in their seats, trying to figure out why the middle corridor of the field looks like Newport Beach (do we blame the Revolution or is Coach Infallible gaining some perceived competitive edge from the golden sand?), when Bills linebacker Takeo Spikes dropped the hammer on Brady on the first play from scrimmage. London Fletcher-Baker scooped up the bouncing ball and ran into the end zone. The Patriots trailed the Bills from that moment until the sixth minute of the fourth quarter.

``I don't think anyone envisioned it going the way it did," said coach Bill Belichick. ``That's Opening Day. Obviously, there's a lot of things we need to work on. We've got a lot of work to do.

``I think in the first half we missed the three or four tip balls, made a little protection problem on a couple of plays. So I think it was a combination of the protection, the route runnings, the distribution of the receivers, throwing it, I mean, all the things. It was a compilation of factors. The perfect storm."

It was certainly a perfect day in the living room of Deion Branch, wherever he was. Branch hasn't had many good days during his holdout, but yesterday things worked in his favor. There's clearly something wrong with a team's passing game when the deep threat is a tight end.

``We need to certainly do a better job of making them defend that part of the field," Brady said. ``When we drop back and throw, we have got to, you know, we have got to be more effective, and I need to make better decisions. I need to throw the ball more accurately. And I think that is where it all starts."

This, ladies and gentlemen, is called throwing yourself under the bus, taking one for the team. New England's offense was most inept in the second quarter, when a succession of running plays yielded a succession of three-and-outs and inspired fans to give their heroes the Seanez treatment.

``We weren't doing anything to warrant us trying to attack," Brady said about the play-calling. ``We were just trying to get out of there and try to get to the second half and regroup. So we didn't give the coach any confidence that we could do anything with it, so I don't blame him."

Brady finished with 11 completions in 23 attempts for 163 yards. He threw a pair of touchdown passes (one a nice, stretched-out catch by Kevin Faulk), but he made a bad throw and was picked off by Donte Whitner with just under nine minutes to play.

Asked about his new receivers, the QB said, ``I think it starts with me. If I make better decisions with the ball and I throw the ball better and those guys are working hard to get open, it is always a process of playing good football. I know we can do a lot better. I mean, I certainly hope it is short term. We have to work hard to make sure this doesn't carry over to next week.

``The passing game is all about execution. It is route basing, it is about route discipline, it is about protection, good routes, good throws . . . and there just wasn't enough of that today. It felt like we were always just out of synch."

Opening Day was an SOS to the front office.

A good day for Deion Branch but a bad day for the star quarterback and his new corps of receivers.

Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. His e-mail address is

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