FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The New England Patriots were happy to win on Sunday, but their inefficiency in the red zone is raising red flags.
With quarterback Tom Brady still shaking off the rust from a lost 2008 season and getting used to new receivers such as veteran Joey Galloway and rookie Julian Edelman -- filling in for the injured Wes Welker -- New England continued to struggle to score touchdowns during Sunday's 26-10 win over the Atlanta Falcons.
The Pats scored one touchdown in five drives inside Falcons' 20-yard line. In three games, New England has two TDs in 10 red zone trips.
On Sunday, Brady hit just three passes in 10 attempts for 10 yards in the red zone. One of those misses came when he connected with Galloway all alone in the back of the end zone, but Galloway failed to get his feet inbounds.
"It's just execution," Brady said on Monday. "It's everybody being on the same page and making the reads and throws and something we'll evaluate and look at. We can't keep kicking field goals, I know that. We've got to be better than that. Just figure out what the problems are and try to figure them out."
"I thought we left some points out there in the red area," coach Bill Belichick said. "We've got to do a better job down there. We've got to coach it better. We've just got to do a better job, but it's good to win."
In 2008, with Matt Cassel at quarterback after Brady was injured, the Patriots scored 32 touchdowns in 61 red zone trips for a 53 percent average.
In 2007, New England converted 50 of its 72 red-zone opportunities into touchdowns -- a 69.4 percent average that was second-best in the NFL.
Part of the solution may have emerged in Sunday's game. Running back Fred Taylor, who had 21 carries for 105 yards and a touchdown, gave the Patriots attack some much-needed balance.
Taylor said the plan was for the Patriots to establish the run. "Coach challenged all of us, the offensive line, the backs, and we were fortunate enough to go out there and make it happen," he said.
The challenge included the Patriots going for it on fourth-and-1 on their own 24-yard-line in the third quarter while leading 16-10. Sammy Morris wedged out a first down.
"I play to win," Taylor said. "He's (Belichick) going to dial it up. He's mentioning at meetings that there's going to come a time during the course of the season when we have to make those. We made it, and it was probably a sigh of relief for him."
Belichick was asked Monday if Taylor, 33, is still capable of carrying the load as a featured back over the course of the season. Laurence Maroney, who had been starting for the Pats, was injured Sunday.
"Well, I don't know the answer to that," Belichick said. "We've only played three games."
NOTES: Belichick said he couldn't comment on the injury to Pro Bowl nose tackle Vince Wilfork, who went down with what appeared to be an ankle injury in the second quarter and did not return. "We'll let you know in that injury report on Wednesday," he said ... The Patriots signed veteran defensive lineman Terdell Sands on Monday. To make room on the 53-man roster, the Patriots released LB Prescott Burgess. Sands, 6-foot-7, 335 pounds, spent the last six seasons (2003-08) with the Oakland Raiders. Burgess, 6-3, 247, was acquired on Sept. 22 in a trade with Baltimore for an undisclosed draft choice.
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press