Gut-Check Time for Declining Patriots

The New England Patriots were the last team in the AFC to be undefeated this season. No, coming off of a two-game losing streak, what will the Patriots have to do in order to get their season back in order?

By: Miles Montgomery | Tuesday Dec 08, 2015

Foxboro – The depleted New England Patriots need to have a heightened sense of urgency moving forward as the almost nonexistent margin for error could be the difference between being the No. 1, No. 2 or No. 3 playoff seed.

The Patriots have dropped like flies in recent weeks, in the win-loss column and literally on the field, as the injury bug has continued to bite the Patriots. This has the Patriots exposing major holes in their lineup. Many mistakes can be attributed to inexperience and drop-off in talent from key starters to the backup players. However, the Patriots must get their act together as if their season depends on it.

As noted in the “Bill Belichick: A Football Life” documentary, Belichick said during a players meeting, “Understand how one stupid play, one stupid penalty, one mistake, ends it for all of us.” This quote applies now as the Patriots watched control of the No. 1 seed and home field advantage slip through their grasps during their current two-game losing streak, failing to overcome early critical mistakes.

Just like they did following the gut-wrenching losses to the Kansas City Chiefs, and Green Bay Packers last season. As they did following their 24-17 loss to the St. Louis Rams in 2001, their loss to the Washington Redskins in 2003 and their loss to the Miami Dolphins in the 2004 season.

The Patriots will receive a big boost when Julian Edelman, Rob Gronkowski, and Dont’a Hightower return to the starting lineup, likely in time for a playoff run. Until then, Tom Brady and Bill Belichick must continue to find diamonds in the rough and work with the roster they have. Getting one of the top two seeds and a first-round bye could help the Patriots get healthy in time for another playoff run.

The Patriots’ identity was created by the way they have responded to adversity over the last 15 seasons. As they did during last year’s Super Bowl run and Super Bowl runs in the past, the Patriots must move on, refocus, have a sense of urgency, and play as a team.

After blowing two 14-point leads last week, and blowing a 14-0 lead Sunday, the Patriots battled back, putting themselves in a position to win both games despite the costly mistakes and penalties. After trailing 24-21 with 1:15 remaining against the Broncos last week, Brady led the Patriots 51-yards downfield to set up Stephen Gostkowski’s 54-yard game-tying field goal to send the game into overtime in a snowstorm. This was done without Lewis, Edelman, Dobson, Amendola and Gronkowski.

“The Patriots became the first team in Super Bowl history to overcome a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter and win,” according to coldhardfootballfacts.com. “Teams trailing by 10 or more points entering the fourth quarter had been 0-29 in Super Bowl play.” Against the Seattle Seahawks, the defending Super Bowl Champions who boasted the No. 1 defense in the NFL, that feat seemed even more impossible.

The turning point of Super Bowl 49 was converting a 3rd-and-14 to begin their remarkable comeback victory. The Patriots did what they needed to do in order to win Super Bowl 49, overcoming numerous obstacles throughout the season and throughout the game.

It’s sink or swim. In order to right the ship, the Patriots need to focus on making improvements. Using these moral victories to their advantage could be the difference between turning the season around for another playoff run and collapsing. If the Patriots expect to play two months from today and end the season with a duck-boat parade down Boylston Street next February, they need to heighten their sense of urgency and decrease their margin for error. In other words, the Patriots are “moving on to Houston.”

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