After their 17-10 loss to the Steelers Sunday, the Patriots find themselves at 9-5, one game behind the Houston Texans for the No. 2 seed in the AFC.
The Patriots have now lost two games in a row for the second time this season. The first happened in Weeks 2 and 3 when they lost 31-20 to Jacksonville and 26-10 to Detroit.
The other losses for the Pats came last week, when they lost to the Dolphins on what is being called “The Miami Miracle,” as they lost 34-33 on a last-second touchdown, and a 34-10 loss to Tennessee.
That’s three losses where the Patriots failed to score more than 10 points. They also have three where they lost by two or more scores.
Here we are heading into Week 16 and the best the Pats can finish is 11-5 and hope the Texans drop a game so that they can get a first-round bye.
So, as a die-hard Patriots fan, I ask, “what the hell is going on?”
When was the last time this team lost five games? 2009, when they finished 10-6.
When was the last time they had two separate instances where they lost back-to-back games? 2015, when they were 12-2 and they dropped the last two games to the Dolphins and Jets after they already clinched a first-round bye.
The last time that happened when it actually mattered was 2002 when they finished 9-7 and actually lost four games in a row and lost two games in a row again later in the season.
When was the last time they failed to score more than 10 points three times in a season? 1999. Let me say that again. Nineteen-ninety-nine. No Brady. No Belichick.
When was the last time they lost three games by two or more scores? 2008, when Matt Cassel started 15 games for the injured Tom Brady.
So, again, what the hell is going on?!
Well, for starters, the defense is terrible.
They rank in the bottom half of the league in virtually every defensive statistic, with the most alarming being their number of sacks, 26, which is the 4th least in the league.
So what happened to the defense?
Well, they lost Super Bowl XLIX hero (and Super Bowl LII bench warmer), Malcom Butler. More importantly though, they lost their defensive coordinator, Matt Patricia.
Now I don’t know how great Patricia really is since the team he is head-coaching now, the Detroit Lions, are irrelevant this season. Though he did a good job in New England and his absence is an obvious potential link to the Pats’ defensive struggles.
Overall, the defense is old and slow and there’s nothing they can do to overcome that.
But the Patriots have had bad defenses before and they’ve gone to the Super Bowl. So what’s different this time?
Sadly, the offense is no longer good enough to make up for the bad defense.
Tom Brady is 41. The man is the greatest-of-all-time, but let’s face it. He’s mediocre this year and at this age, it’s irrational to think he will ever be anything other than mediocre again.
But it’s not just Brady.
Rob Gronkowski has been a shell of himself all year. He’s missed four games due to injury this season and in the games he has played in, he hasn’t been very effective.
He has 658 yards and 3 touchdowns on 45 receptions. Not very Gronk-like numbers.
Other than that, Julian Edelman isn’t getting open the way we’re used to seeing, Chris Hogan isn’t putting up the numbers we’re used to and they’ve had to incorporate Josh Gordon and Cordarelle Patterson into their offense.
Long story short, the Patriots are historically bad this year, and not only have I given up on them for this season, but I also believe we are witnessing the end of the dominant era.