Patriots Are 3-3: Too Early to Panic

Tom Brady and Bill Belichick

No panic here.

NEPD Staff Writer: Dan Hope

In the aftermath of a sickening 14-point, fourth-quarter collapse against the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday that dropped the New England Patriots to 3-3 through the season’s first six games, it was easy to forget that the same team was playing in a Super Bowl just eight months earlier.

The Patriots may be off to a surprisingly rough start to their 2012 season, but there is not much separating this team from the one that won an AFC Championship last season.

There is certainly reason for concern with the Patriots, not the least of which is the fact they have already had two major fourth-quarter collapses this season. Against both the Baltimore Ravens and Seahawks, the Patriots blew two-score leads in the fourth quarter.

The biggest factor leading to those major collapses has been the team’s horribly inconsistent pass defense, which has been known to give up big plays in big moments, including three of 40 yards or more in the fourth quarter against the Seahawks. After giving up 283 yards on Sunday, a season-high for Seahawks rookie quarterback Russell Wilson, the Patriots are in the NFL’s bottom five with 288.8 passing yards allowed per game.

This is nothing new for the Patriots, however. They still managed to make it to the Super Bowl last season while ranking 31st in the NFL with 293.9 passing yards allowed per game.

The Patriots will continue to lose game if they allow big plays late in the game, and that was certainly one of the biggest reasons they lost to the Giants to end last season, in that they allowed 282 passing yards, including a 38-yard pass on the Giants’ game-winning drive. The fact that they got that far, however, shows that they can overcome shaky secondary play to win games.

For the most part, there is no reason for concern for the Patriots’ offense. Even in their loss to the Seahawks, they put up a whopping 475 yards of offense against arguably the league’s best defense, a defense that had not allowed more than 300 yards in any of their first five games. The Patriots rank first in the league with 445.3 yards per game and 31.3 points per game.

The Patriots have had some issues with coming up with offense to close out games in the fourth quarter and keep their defense off the field, which has been another contributing factor in both of their fourth-quarter collapse losses. In total, though, the Patriots should be a much better team than their 3-3 record indicates.

The Patriots have had a chance to win every game they have played, and had it not been for a missed field goal against the Cardinals and a made field goal by the Ravens that was nearly missed, they could be a 5-1 team. Even with three losses, they have lost those games by a combined deficit of four points; the only team with a smaller loss deficit are the Ravens and Atlanta Falcons, and those teams have one less between them.

Currently in a surprising four-way tie in the AFC East, the Patriots certainly need to kick their season in a new gear, but it’s much too early to hit the panic button. As has been the case in recent seasons, the Patriots are going to have to rely on their offense to put up big points and yards, because their secondary has not made the necessary improvements this season, but with the NFL’s best offense, they will still win many games that way.

The Patriots are also in a position now to get on a roll and pull away with a division lead. Their next six games are all very winnable, as they are all against teams with .500 or below records, and four of those games are against division opponents, including two games against the New York Jets.

The Patriots survived by the skin of their teeth from giving up a game-winning touchdown to the Ravens in last year’s AFC Championship Game, and they did give up a fourth-quarter game-winning touchdown in their Super Bowl loss to the Giants.

The fact remains, however, that this was a Patriots team that was four minutes away from winning a championship, and needed just one more defensive stop.

The same issues that plagued the Patriots last season may remain, but with the NFL’s best offense, an improved run defense and postseason experience, the Patriots are still in position to make another Super Bowl run, especially in an AFC that currently has just two teams above .500 for the season.

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7 Responses to “Patriots Are 3-3: Too Early to Panic”

  1. Lundahl says:

    Dan, you got it all wrong about the Super Bowl loss. Your analysis is analysis. If we lost, it’s because the offense couldn’t convert a damn first down on multiple drives. If they had, the game was ours. Plus the defense had three sacks and forced three turnovers. Not bad, huh ?

  2. Lundahl says:

    The Patriots have an excellent team. I have a positive feeling that this team can make it all the way. On the other hand I’d be alarmed as Texans and 49ers fan: their performances were disgusting and they were embarrassed AT HOME, against real QBs. Finally the laws of logic prove these two teams are fraud. No average QB had made it to the SB those last few years.

  3. bigw says:

    Listen it just doesn’t look good for Tom to be hugging his coach he needs to know that he doesn’t get a free pass to play bad his time can be up just like any other. BUT THE SAME HAS TO GO FOR THE COACH AND O COORDINATOR AND DEFENSIVE COACHES. THINGS FOR THE BIG GUYS HAVE BEEN GETTING A LITTLE TOO EASY AND SOMEONE NEEDS TO HAVE A COUPLE HEADS ROLL.

  4. Eugene says:

    Pats neeed to draft a FS like Lester or Reid.

    • jibri says:

      I agree & we need a new DB coach. Some one call Deion Sanders so can teach them 2 look 4 the ball

      • Eugene says:

        Or bring Ty Law back as a DB coach. Teach them to kick some ass instead of letting receivers run wherever the hell they want. I have been watching a lot of Bama games this year, and Lester looks like the real deal at FS. But the pats have so many holes on the team now. FS1, FS2, CB1, CB2 DE2, coverage LB. (I am saying two FS’s as the SS position is a bit outdated. It is a passing league, and you do not need you’re safties wasting time beating up RB’s/TE’s. That is what LB’s are for.) If next year, the pats can get Lester in the first round, a decent CB in the second, sign a FA CB and some solid FA o-linemen, they should be set. But I do not expect a super bowl with this defense.

    • jibri says:

      I agree & a DB coach

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