Every week, PFW associate editor and Patriots writer Kevin Fishbain will identify three up-and-comers and three players/units going in the opposite direction in the Patriots stock report.
1. WR Wes Welker: The Slot Machine had cooled off after his historic start to the season, but he came up big when the Pats needed him most on Sunday. Welker finished with nine catches for 136 yards, catching nine of the 10 passes thrown his way and gaining 15.1 yards per catch. It was his first 100-yard receiving game since Week Five, and he did so despite getting clocked on one play, which knocked the wind out of him.
2. Third-down defense: One of the Patriots' biggest Achilles' heels was not the reason they lost on Sunday. The Pats' defense held the Giants to 4-of-14 (29 percent) on third down. They pressured Eli Manning on third-down plays and the coverage was there. But the two third downs the Giants converted on the last drive — a 28-yard reception by Jake Ballard and the game-winning touchdown pass to Ballard — were the difference.
3. TE Rob Gronkowski: Sometimes you have to wonder when teams are going to find a way to stop "Gronk." He is turning into one of the league's elite tight ends, as he found the endzone for the first time since Week Three, catching 8-101-1 on 15 targets. The touchdown came on the third consecutive pass thrown Gronkowski's way, and it gave the Patriots the lead.
1. Red-zone offense: Yes, the Patriots are ranked fifth in the league, scoring touchdowns on 63.9 percent of their red-zone opportunities, but when your defense is ranked 32nd in the NFL, you need to find the endzone more often. On Sunday, the Patriots were in the red zone four times and had two touchdowns, one field goal and one missed field goal.
2. Return game: They are 30th in the NFL in kickoff-return average and had a long return of 24 yards, using four different returners — Danny Woodhead, Devin McCourty, Julian Edelman and Matthew Slater. Edelman's bad week continued. After being a healthy scratch last Sunday and getting arrested on Monday, Edelman fumbled a punt and averaged only 3.4 yards on five returns.
3. QB Tom Brady: Brady simply looked off most of Sunday's game, only looking like himself on the last drive, and even then he had some miscues. For the game, Brady threw two interceptions and had a passer rating of 75.4. He threw behind receivers and was late on a couple passes. Defenses are finding ways to get Brady and the offense out of sync with physical coverage and by collapsing the pocket.