By: Denny Hackett
For the second week in a row, the Patriots did not show up on the road and were beaten handily by the Detroit Lions on Sunday night.
It seems like every year the Patriots come out of the gates slow to start the season with a couple of ugly losses so it’s impossible to tell if this year is any different, but there are some glaring issues with the Patriots that may make this year different.
Obviously there are some injuries on the defense. Trey Flowers and Patrick Chung are the most notable injuries on that side of the ball. But the Patriots’ defense cannot stop the run at all. On Sunday, after 70 games without having a player rush for 100 yards, Lions running back Kerryon Johnson was able to break the mark against a porous Patriots’ defense. Like Blake Bortles a week ago, Lions’ quarterback Matt Stafford was able to pick the Patriots secondary apart. On the day, he finished with 262 yards and two touchdowns and was consistently able to find receivers for big gains on third down.
Despite all of the issues on defense, the larger concern with the Patriots is that they cannot score against their opponents. In the past two weeks, they have only been able to muster up 13 points against the Jaguars and 10 points against the Lions on Sunday. Getting Julian Edelman back in two weeks should help the Patriots find some sort of rhythm, but with the way things are going at the moment it is impossible to tell if it will matter. It will also be interesting to see what Josh Gordon will be able to add to the offense, who despite practicing this week after being traded from Cleveland was not able to suit up for the Patriots on Sunday.
The Patriots absolutely miss players that they parted ways with after last season. Players like Danny Amendola, Brandin Cooks, and Dion Lewis all were either traded or signed with other teams during the offseason and have left a void on the Patriots roster.
Amendola was always one of Brady’s favorite targets in recent memory and made huge impacts on the offense, especially on third down. Lewis was always good at picking up yardage on the ground as well as playing as a third down running back in conjunction with James White. And Cooks was the team’s second leading receiver last year with 1082 yards.
Losing these players has hurt the Patriots’ offense in a way that nobody saw coming and their replacements have not been able to find a rhythm with Brady. Even Gronkowski has not been the All-Pro caliber tight end he has been for his entire career.
The Patriots also lack one thing their team seems to have every year, mental toughness. In the past the Patriots’ have typically been able to play well from behind, and at least make games competitive at the end if they didn’t win. This team has gotten behind early in each of the last two weeks and has not been able to recover and compete in either game.
This team needs a spark to get going, through the first three weeks they are not playing like the Patriots have for the last 17 years and there are some serious concerns for them that may not resolve things the way that they have in the past.
The Patriots have a week to come to grips with their early season woes before they take on tough opponents in the 3-0 Miami Dolphins next Sunday.
Photo from: Toledoblade.com