The numbers Tom Brady has put up the first two games of this season are awe-inspiring but are considered customary for the New England Patriots.
Brady's passing yards have him on pace to become the league's first 7,000-yard passer when no one has come close to 6,000 and only one has thrown for more than 5,000. At this rate, the most-touchdowns-in-a-season mark Brady set four seasons ago will tumble.
Asked about the lofty numbers New England coach Bill Belichick says, "It isn't like he hasn't made them before."
Yep, just Brady being Brady. Several teams have strong-armed quarterbacks, but only a handful have strong-willed leaders like Brady and a coach who is willing to retool his offense to fit the special nature of his players.
The Patriots (2-0) play the Buffalo Bills at 1 p.m. Sunday at Ralph Wilson Stadium and already this season Brady has thrown for 940 yards and seven touchdowns. At that rate, Brady would finish this season with 56 touchdowns, which would break the mark of 50 he set in 2007. He's on pace to finish this season with 7,520 yards that would crush Dan Marino's record by 2,436 yards. Marino passed for 5,084 in 1984.
"Offensive football is about everybody being on the same page and the quarterback can never be successful without the help of every single guy out there," Brady said. "I've had guys making plays in both games, making some tough catches and we haven't had a lot of mental errors."
The current system is being built around one powerful arm in Brady, two playmaking receivers in Wes Welker and Deion Branch and two athletic, versatile tight ends in Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez.
"We've always taken the approach as a football team to do the things that give us the best chance to match up against each individual opponent and changes from week to week," Belichick said. "A lot of our game planning has to do with who we have available, who's on our team and how they match up against our opponent. It changes from week to week and nobody really knows how it's going to turn out until we get into the game and see how it goes."
Nothing ever fazes Belichick. You figure this man has seen just about everything bearing in mind he's been in the NFL since 1975, so he's not going to heap a lot of praise toward Brady. Maybe it's because he's used to it. Over the last 13 regular-season games, Brady has thrown 33 touchdowns and just one interception.
"Tom has been a good player for us for a number of years," Belichick said. "We've seen him play very consistently over that period of time and have made plenty of good plays."
Belichick leaves the praise heaping to others.
"I don't think that he has done it before but he's certainly been capable of it before," Bills coach Chan Gailey said. "I just see him controlling every aspect of the game right now. He controls the tempo, the protections and the routes. He checks at the right times. He's got a great understanding of the game. You can see all the years of experience and all the years of that group working together is sort of coming together now. He's got a lot of good weapons that he's able to use at different spots on the field."
Said Bills linebacker Chris Kelsay, a nine-year NFL veteran: "The way he reads defenses, the checks that he makes, his knowledge of the game, he does it all. He's obviously a great asset, one of the biggest assets first and foremost. We've got to somehow, some way get to him, rattle him and make him feel uncomfortable in the pocket."
Brady says the Patriots' effectiveness in the red zone has to increase -- although their 72.7 percent success rate is over 10 percent higher than 2010. New England converts 62.5 percent on third down, second only to San Diego but there isn't even a trace of sarcasm when Brady says, "we've got to be better on third down."
Brady does have a point of implementing more players in the passing game, in particular wide receiver Chad Ochocinco, who has only three receptions for 59 yards.
"We're still trying to figure out ways to improve and we're going to," Brady said. "The more we work at it, the better we're going to be and the more prepared we're going to play."
At 34 and with three Super Bowl championships in hand, he might as well spend the rest of his career throwing downfield at football history.
Tight end Dan Gronkowski (hamstring), who didn't practice on Thursday, was released by the Patriots on Friday. That spoils a homecoming game for the Williamsville native. Gronkowski was signed on Sept. 7 and played in the first two games for the Patriots. He played with the Lions in 2009 and the Broncos in 2010.
Bills receiver Stevie Johnson (groin), defensive end Spencer Johnson (hip) and nose tackle Torell Troup (lower back) are all listed as probable while linebacker Kirk Morrison (hamstring) is out for Sunday's game. Both Johnsons and Troup practiced fully on Friday while Morrison was limited. Cornerback Terrence McGee (hamstring) and guard Kraig Urbik (knee) were already ruled out.
Hernandez (knee) as well as right tackle Sebastian Vollmer (back) and defensive end Mike Wright (concussion) are out for the Patriots.
Listed as questionable for New England are safety Patrick Chung (hand), defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth (back), corner Ras-I Dowling (hip), linebackers Gary Guyton (hamstring) and Jerod Mayo (thigh), wide receiver Taylor Price (hamstring), center Ryan Wendell (calf) and punter Zoltan Mesko (knee). Dowling and Haynesworth did not practice on Friday while the others were limited.
The Patriots' probables are corners Kyle Arrington (concussion) and Leigh Bodden (hand), safety Josh Barrett (thumb) and linebacker Dane Fletcher (thumb). Arrington was limited during practice on Friday while the others participated fully.