Once again, the New England Patriots slow start is attempting to confuse us. Don’t take the bait. They’ll turn out just fine.
It’s Déjá Vu all over again.
The New England Patriots were barely recognizable this past week on Sunday Night Football, doing something they rarely do during the Tom Brady–Bill Belichick era: lose back-to-back games. Their 26-10 loss on the road to the Detroit Lions dropped their record to 1-2 on this young season.
Brady did not look good. The 41-year-old quarterback looked every bit of his age. Well, maybe not. However, Brady had a less than stellar day at the office. He completed just 14 of his 26 passes for 133 yards, threw one touchdown, and threw an interception.
The offense stalled all night. Pro-Bowl tight end Rob Gronkowski was often double and triple covered for a majority of the snaps he saw. Wide receivers Phillip Dorsett, Cordarrelle Patterson and Chris Hogan failed to produce in Julian Edelman’s absence; their newest addition Josh Gordon was inactive.
The defense, led by Bill Belichick “the genius,” was torched by former assistant Matt Patricia’s play-calling and the Lions’ running game.
The Patriots allowed 26 points, over 100 yards rushing (Detroit hadn’t done that since 2013), and 7-of-14 third-down conversions.
Eerily reminiscent of Super Bowl 52, Belichick’s defense, or what’s left of it, couldn’t get off the field on the money down—third down.
If the Patriots lose to the Miami Dolphins this Sunday, they could fall three games behind them in the AFC East standings.
That outcome is a genuine possibility.
Only, it won’t happen.
Reports of the Patriots demise have been exaggerated for years now.
We’ve been down this road before.
Infamously back in 2014, the Kansas City Chiefs shellacked the Patriots on Monday Night Football 41-14. That game was enough evidence for people to proclaim that the dynasty was over.
Brady was done. Belichick was losing his way.
Of course, the Patriots not only went to the Super Bowl that year in Glendale, Arizona, but they won it in dramatic fashion defeating the Seattle Seahawks, 28-24.
Last year in the season opener on Thursday night, the Chiefs embarrassed the Patriots again; this time up in Foxboro 42-27.
Getting off to slow starts for the Patriots is not unusual.
I will admit there is a difference between this slow start and other slow starts. The reported tension between Brady and Belichick gives some credence to the belief that the end is here.
The questions surrounding a much-maligned defense, Edelman’s health coming off a significant injury, and Gordon’s reliability make the Patriots far from a lock to win the Super Bowl, as the oddsmakers predicted before the season started.
Ever since Belichick was forced to trade his adopted son (Jimmy Garoppolo) in favor of Kraft’s adopted son (Tom Brady), nothing was the same.
The Malcolm Butler benching in Super Bowl 52 further exacerbated the rift and growing distrust between the two most important men in the Patriots organization.
However, New England has dominated the AFC since Brady-Belichick has become a tandem.
The Los Angeles Chargers were everyone’s preseason surprise team in the AFC. Then the season hit and the Chargers early season struggles reared their ugly head—as they always do. Many had the Pittsburgh Steelers representing the AFC in Super Bowl 53. Then right on cue the circus that is the Pittsburgh Steelers arrived.
The only problem is their 26-year-old star running back has not. Bell continues to holdout amidst a conflict over his current contract. The Steelers’ players are outspoken about anything and everything. Tomlin has never had complete control of his locker room, and his side of the ball — the defense — has been their Achilles heel over the last few seasons.
The Jacksonville Jaguars defense is elite, but I have qualms Blake Bortles can deliver for them in the playoffs. The Chiefs look impressive with the emergence of the rookie phenom Patrick Mahomes. Mahomes has been setting the league and defenses on fire with his electric style of play and huge arm.
However, we’ve seen these fast starts from Andy Reid coached teams before. The Chiefs started 5-0 last year behind Alex Smith’s 11 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. Their season predictably ended in the wild-card round after blowing an 18-point lead at home to Marcus Mariota and the Tennessee Titans.
I know you probably think Mahomes is no Alex Smith. You’re right. However, two things remain from a season ago with the Chiefs: Andy Reid’s questionable play-calling in the playoffs and the Chiefs suspect defense. Until Reid addresses those problems, I don’t see the Chiefs unseating the Patriots come January. The Patriots will win their division and make it to the AFC championship game.
You can bet against Brady if you want.
I’ve learned my lesson.