By Vincent Pensabene
The commonwealth of Massachusetts is under a state of emergency. This is not a drill. The New England Patriots are now 1-2 and have a lot of issues on both sides of the football. Tom Brady does not look like the reigning MVP of the league and the defense can’t stop a nosebleed. Is this the end of the greatest dynasty in NFL history as we know it?
Let’s start with Tom Brady, who is the Greatest of All Time (hurts to say that as a lifelong Jets fan). I understand the narrative for Brady is that they have no receivers but Brady has done more with no receivers throughout his career. He has only had one Pro-Bowl receiver throughout his entire career so I dismiss that narrative entirely.
When time catches up with a professional athlete, it is almost as if their production falls off a cliff. I’m not implying that the Patriots’ offense does not play a role in any of this, but it isn’t the only factor. For Sunday’s game against Detroit, the Patriots only had three receivers that were healthy enough to play. In the first three weeks of the 2018 season, Brady has seen his yards, yards per attempt, and touchdown passes decrease in each game. Sunday was Brady’s fifth worse game of his professional career statistically going 14 of 26 with 133 yards with a touchdown and a pick. Maybe at age 41, he isn’t the same quarterback.
The offense looks lost at times, which is the most concerning thing. This isn’t the first season that the defense looked shaky but the team has trouble starting games. In the home opener against Jacksonville, the team went down 21-3 by halftime and could not manage to find the endzone until the second half.
That could just be the Jaguars’ defense stepping up, right? Wrong. The Pats couldn’t muster a first down until the fourth drive of the game. They only managed a field goal in the first half against the Lions in the entire first half and only had the ball for 19 minutes of the game in Detroit.
Teams that have trouble show it more on the road. Patriots are 0-2 on the road and haven’t looked like themselves at all. Teams are doubling Gronk and challenging the wideouts to beat the corner or d-back and they simply can’t.
Maybe once Julian Edleman returns from his PED suspension in week 5 or once newly-acquired Josh Gordon learns the playbook and rehabs a hamstring injury, Brady and the rest of the offense will look better. However, they are currently two games behind the undefeated Miami Dolphins in the AFC East and play in Foxborough next week.
Let’s jump over to the defense. Yes, this happened last season and Belichick/Matt Patricia managed to get the team to a top-8 defensive unit. However, Patricia isn’t there anymore as he is the Lions’ head coach. The defense looks lost on the field at times and doesn’t have help coming. Malcolm Butler isn’t there anymore and if you take the last three losses for the Pats (Super Bowl and the first two losses of the season), opposing offenses are efficient on third down 61 percent of the time. In the three games this year, 48 percent. The Pats can’t get teams off the field and keeping Brady on the sidelines.
The Pats are giving up 405 yards a game so far this season. They allowed Detroit, a team that hasn’t rushed well since Reggie Bush, to have a 100-yd rusher for the first time since Thanksgiving 2013. At times I question if Belichick even cares on the sideline with some of the issues that persistently come out at times. This isn’t the Patriots of old.
The most in-house team is having their issues come out through the media, including Brady wanting a “divorce” from Belichick but feeling obligated to stay after the team traded Jimmy Garoppolo to the 49ers. Maybe Belicheck has Beli-checked out or Brady is beginning to fall off the cliff, either way this Sunday against Miami is must see.