homepage logo

Patriots Analysis: Recent dose of reality likely good thing

By Tom King - Staff Writer | Dec 30, 2020

Patriots coach Bill Belichick has had that expression on his face several times the last three weeks, including Monday night during the debacle against the Bills at Gillette Stadium. (AP photo)

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The worst thing that happened to the New England Patriots in the last couple of months was their 45-0 win over the Los Angeles Chargers.

The best thing that happened to them, for the long term, has been their slump since, including Monday night’s 38-9 debacle vs. the Buffalo Bills.

Explain? Well, the Chargers win gave the Patriots and their fans a false sense of security as to where they really stood. The losses to the Rams, Dolphins and Bills showed that New England has miles to go before it can sleep in the comfort of contending, championship level football.

And there are going to be plenty of teams like the Bills and Dolphins looking to keep the Patriots away from that comfort.

The Patriots right now are in trouble long-term. They have no answer on the horizon at the quarterback position, as much as we can all feel sorry for a hard-working Cam Newton and his lack of nightly sleep.

The Patriots haven’t been in this situation at the position since the days of Scott Secules, who kept the seat warm until a highly touted rookie named Drew Bledsoe was ready in 1993. The numbers from Monday night – QB ratings of 57.9 (Newton) and 49.1 (Stidham) are brutal. As to who starts this Sunday vs. the New York Jets, please, it makes absolutely no difference.

“I think it’s a combination of things that we can all do better,” the architect of all of this, Bill Belichick, said Tuesday morning. “So that’s what we’ll work toward this week and work toward in the future. You know, look at everything, try to improve everything, whether it’s design, execution, protection, route running, decision making, etc.”

It’s all of the above, because, as you’ve read before, it’s an issue of talent.

The Patriots don’t have much, and the last three weeks have proven to be an accurate barometer of where this team is in relation to the other teams that will be playing beyond Sunday.

They’ve all drafted well, traded well, and had more hits than misses in free agency. The Patriots really can’t say that, except their bargain basement free agent signings have done OK as usual (see Adrian Phillips). That hasn’t changed too much.

But what has changed is how this team is perceived. Belichick said the analysis of what’s gone wrong will take place “later on”. In the meantime, it’s business as usual.

“We always look at our self-scouting and so forth and look at things from previous weeks,” Belichick said. “We’ll continue to do that and things that we’ve done well that we want to maybe try to build on and things that we haven’t done well that we need to correct and address. So there’s always an element of that. That’s pretty standard from week to week.”

These Patriots simply can’t fall behind because they can’t throw the ball. Their running game is good, but it’s only effective when it can be used to shorten the game and protect leads. Teams like the Patriots can see games get out of hand quickly, the way it did Monday night. Hard to believe it was 10-9 at one point.

There are certainly tons of other issues. Buffalo’s Josh Allen was able to pick the Patriots secondary, minus Stephon Gilmore, apart. He had plenty of time to do it, too. There were mistakes on special teams, and certainly coaching errors, one misread of a replay resulting in what will be a classic Belichick phone throwing video for years to come.

What we’ve seen is the reality of the situation the last three weeks. Those games have exposed just about every weakness the Patriots have. Don’t pay attention at all to what happens in Sunday’s finale vs. the Jets.

“Yeah, again, we’ll just look at each week and get ready to play the game,” Belichick said. “I don’t know about comparing one year to another or one situation to another situation. I mean, that’s a lot more complicated.”

Unfortunately for the Patriots, Belichick is right, that’s exactly what it is. And there are no easy answers, but at least now we all know what the Patriots are dealing with – and so do they.


AFC: 1.Kansas City (14-1). 2. Buffalo (12-3) 3. Pittsburgh (12-3). 4.Baltimore (10-5). 5.Tennessee (10-5).

NFC: 1. Green Bay (12-3). 2. New Orleans (11-4). 3. Seattle (11-4). 4. Tampa Bay (10-5). 5. L.A. Rams (9-6).


Join thousands already receiving our daily newsletter.

Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *