As the NFL season winds down, one thing that could always be counted on is a strong finish for the New England Patriots. The Pats are a team that generally owns the month of December, which is one reason why most players on the team wear three rings. For the most part it’s not how you start, its how you finish. That is why Sunday’s 21-0 shutout in Miami for the Dolphins has to be one of the most concerning losses for the Pats under head coach Bill Belichick. The Pats started bad, finished bad, and even found a way to play bad in the middle. It was not a typical Pats performance in the Belichick era to say the least.
Possibly the biggest sign of cracks in the Pats armor was the performance and the reaction that came from quarterback Tom Brady. The calm, cool QB was not his normal self on Sunday, and his yelling at teammates, shouting on the bench, and subpar play was just a small reason that Pats fans should be very concerned about four weeks until the start of the playoffs. Brady was 12 for 25 for 78 yards and was sacked four times. “We just couldn’t do anything right,” he said postgame.
Could the Pats magic be running out? Maybe. Or maybe its just a case of the Dolphins having New England’s number. After all, the Dolphins against Brady lifetime are 5-7 against him. Take into account that Brady against the rest of the league is 70-20, and you have what could be just a case of a team that steps up against the future Hall of Fame QB.
New England looks like they will be in the same position as last season – hosting a game in week one of the playoffs and then having to be road warriors to try and make it back to the Super Bowl. At 9-4 they are going to win the AFC East, but are one game back of two other teams for a possible bye in the playoffs, and two games back of the red-hot Chargers for home field in the AFC. Maybe Sunday was just a bad day for the proud Pats, or maybe it was a sign that years of beating up everyone else in the league is coming to a close.
The last three weeks of the regular season should give us answers to questions on how far this Pats team can actually advance once the second season begins in the NFL. If yesterday shed any light on this team, it showed that time may be catching up to them and it may be time to start thinking about reloading.