So this is what .500 New England Patriots Football looks like? A defense that is guaranteed to give up game-winning points at the end of a game, an offense that settles for field goals in the red zone and an overall lack of urgency.
Where were the signs that led up to this? Is there a rebound from this? Russell Wilson at 5’10” schooling the Patriots with a 13-point lead deep in the fourth quarter? Either the Seahawks are that good or the Patriots are really that overrated. Or maybe it’s somewhere in between. Bad game possibly? No. 1 defense in the league? Tough stadium to play? Who knows, but whatever it was, it was all too familiar to Patriots fans.
Here is a key stat: Since 2009 the Patriots have lost seven times while holding the lead with five minutes or less.
The general feel when watching a game come down to the wire with the Patriots involved is that 1) the opposing team will score the points needed to take the lead. 2) it is not a given that the Patriots can come down and put points back on the board. This team needs a big enough lead heading into the fourth quarter so that there really isn’t a chance of a comeback.
Five-hundred football is an ugly game to play. You look great one week and lose a heartbreaker the next. You may win two or three in a row but your weaknesses are exposed against the better teams and ultimately you settle in where you should be in regards to the standings.
The sad thing with the Patriots is that it doesn't have to be this way. The talent level in many areas could/should overshadow the shortcomings in others. One defensive mind in college football made the statement “If you rush five and still don’t get to the quarterback then you have made it much easier to complete a pass with less defenders in the secondary. So why not rush three and play your odds with eight in the secondary making it almost impossible to complete a pass?”
The Patriots have attempted to do that, except the passes are still being completed and when they aren't the receiver is drawing a pass interference. It looks like the other team is playing cat and mouse with the defensive unit for the Pats. There is no consistency or threat of a pass rush or that the secondary can actually break on the ball and make a play.
Offensively, no one knows. Fifty-eight passing attempts against the Seahawks? Rob Gronkowski only has 29 receptions all season and Aaron Hernandez is visibly still ailing. The offense is a mess and the game management looks terrible at this point.
This doesn't look like the team that could force its will on anyone at anytime. The explosiveness doesn't look like it’s there. The team is lacking a big-play threat and it shows. Defenses can cheat down and play within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage.
Josh McDaniels and his play-calling are starting to look a little questionable. The defense has not been a factor the entire season (with the exception of the Buffalo game). Who is going to right the ship? It’s a sad day when you look at Tom Brady and wonder if he can actually take a team down at the end of the game and put points on the board.
This is .500 football. This is what it looks like and this is how it’s played. Patriot fans are losing hope across the country. Some things are going to have to change dramatically in order to get things back on track.