Patriots Continue to Squander Opportunities, Risking Promising Season

Patriots Continue to Squander Opportunities, Risking Promising SeasonWith six seconds left and a seven-point lead behind them
already, Tom Brady and the Patriots decided to take one final shot at the end
zone before heading into halftime.

The ensuing pass resulted in an intentional grounding
penalty and an automatic runoff that would keep kicker Stephen Gostkowski from
even attempting a chip-shot field goal to extend the lead.

The play was a blatant missed opportunity for New England.
Unfortunately it would be just the first of many for the Patriots on Sunday, a
reality that has plagued them all season long.

Brady, who led the offense to more than 1,000 yards and 80
total points over the past two games, was in the zone once again early on in
Seattle. He was 21 of 30 for 216 yards and a touchdown by halftime. But after
the mental blunder on the final play of the half, Brady completed just 15 of 28
passes and failed to lead his team into the end zone.

The All-Pro quarterback admitted to the Patriots'
shortcomings on Sunday, though, and he accepted responsibility for much of
them.

"That why you lose games — you squander
opportunities," Brady said after the 24-23 loss in Seattle. "I
thought we squandered quite a few opportunities today, and we all have to do a
better job. And it starts with me."

Brady ultimately set a new personal high with 58 passes in
the game. But even while he aired it out for a season-high 395 yards, the
glaring penalty along with a pair of interceptions, including one in the red
zone, were too much to overcome.

The Patriots were utterly futile in all facets of the game
during the second half, squandering nearly every chance to secure the win. The
offense couldn't seem to find the end zone, the secondary gave up an abundance
of big plays in the passing game and the special teams unit even allowed a big
punt return at a crucial point in the fourth quarter.

Bill Belichick believed that the problems extended well
beyond just the second half, though, instead seeing the trend develop
throughout the loss.

"We missed a lot of [opportunities]," Belichick
added. "We missed them the whole game."

Even as they put together yet another video game like
performance against the Seahawks, the Patriots' offense remained the real
culprit in the loss. The same running game, which has been lauded for its
success in recent weeks, was incredibly unproductive gaining just 87 yards on
26 carries. Brady carried his weight through the air, but continued to struggle
inside the red zone.

The Patriots, who have struggled to convert in the red area
this season, scored touchdowns on just one of their six trips inside the
20-yard line on Sunday. That success rate, or more accurately lack thereof, is exactly the type of ineffectiveness that breeds losing. But that's not an
uncommon issue for the Patriots this season.

New England was just one of three in the red zone in their
crushing loss to Arizona earlier this season, another game marred by missed
opportunities. While there was no missed field goal to highlight the mistakes
in this one, the futility shown in the red zone — especially at the end of the
first half — was glaring enough to confirm what's developing into a recurring
problem.

There are only so many opportunities for a team to take advantage
of, and only so many mistakes that can be endured. The Patriots must figure out
how to capitalize on the former and limit the latter, or else their current 3-3
record will become more than just a mirage.

Vince Wilfork willfully accepted that reality after the loss
saying, "We're 3-3 for a reason and until we do something about it we're
going to have problems."

While guys like Wilfork and Brady may be willing to accept
that hard truth, the real challenge lies in correcting it. Which is much easier
said than done.

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