By Lorenzo Recupero
Public service announcement for all local football fans: What you saw from the New England Patriots this past weekend was NOT a mirage.
This team looks bad. Really bad.
In the, 26-10, loss to the Detroit Lions, the Patriots (1-2) defense couldn’t find the sideline any faster than team owner Josh Kraft moves across it at pregame warmups, and the offense looked like my 8 year-old son was mic’d up calling the plays.
And to think, our savior (Josh Gordon) is a chronic drug abuser that hasn’t had a truly productive or meaningful season as a player since his breakout performances five seasons ago makes this crisis all the more real — and scary.
Randy Moss, Wes Welker, Dion Lewis, Brandon Cooks, or even Danny Amendola will not be walking through the Gillette Stadium doors this season to save the Patriots. The offense is squandering, and there are no good answers as to a remedy – not on this team or in the remaining free agency pool.
A closer look would show that their offensive output is amongst the lowest performing in all of the NFL through three weeks of play, posting historically (for Patriots standards) bad numbers while riding the team’s first 2-game losing streak since back-to-back losses to the Giants and Dolphins to wrap up the 2015 regular season (Lost to the Denver Broncos in the AFC championship game).
Following the week 3 loss, the Patriots rank 31st (of 32 teams) in total yards (230) from the wide receiver position and have just a lone catch from tight end Rob Gronkowski that spanned 30 yards or more… Where’s Cooks when you need him?
I’m sure Brady is asking himself the same question.
His 133 total passing yards against the lowly Lions (1-2) is the fewest of his career when playing in an indoor stadium.
Compared to this same time last year, his numbers have taken a big hit.
Through the first 3 weeks of 2017, Brady complied 1,092 passing yards and 8 touchdowns in 110 pass attempts. In the same span this season, he’s put up 644 yards and 6 touchdowns over 100 attempts.
At first glance, seeing that all the numbers have dipped, it looks as if our golden boy has taken a nose-dive in productivity at age 41, but not all the blame should be placed solely on Tom Terrific’s shoulders. His attempts per game haven’t changed much, but getting his receivers to snag his passes has been a problem.
Chris Hogan is good, but it’s clear he is not even close to a top-tier target in the NFL.
It doesn’t help at all that our leading rusher, Rex Burkhead, has only 86 total rushing yards, or 28.66 yards per game. To help put that number into perspective: Brady has 14 rushing yards, or 4.66 yards per game, good for the 4th highest total on the team so far.
The Pats’ inability to run the ball was outshined by a Detroit Lions run attack that hadn’t seen a 100-yard rusher in a game since 2013 (Reggie bush) before Kerry Johnson (who?) tallied 101 rushing yards in his team’s first win of the year
The lack of speed from the Patriots defensive unit was glaring. It was almost hard to watch (I stopped by the third quarter). More specifically, the linebacker core. It is by far the team’s Achilles heel. Our best (most seasoned) at the position, team captain Dont’a Hightower, might be the slowest of the bunch. Neither he nor his defensive teammates could find a way to slow down the Lions’ ground attack, allowing runners to find the sideline on pitches and tosses all game long. In total yards allowed, the Pats’ defense ranks 28th in the league while giving up 25.7 points per game so far.
In fairness, we aren’t even half way through the season and much can change for both sides of the ball, but with an offense averaging just 19 points a game and defense giving up over 25, without drastic changes and no real help on the way, it’s not irrational to feel like the Pats are in a pinch.
Right now, they don’t look like a team that’s gone to 2 of the last 3 super bowls and only time will tell if the season will continue being a trick or turn to a treat for Patriots fans watching in New England.
In the words of the almighty Bill Belichick (in which we trust): “I don’t think anyone can clinch a playoff spot today. I don’t think anyone is eliminated today.”
Statistics used in this piece were compiled by ESPN and NFL.com.