The last time the New England Patriots began a season with two losses in their first three games was 2012, when they lost to the Arizona Cardinals and Baltimore Ravens back-to-back in Weeks 2 and 3.
What happened next? Oh, just a 11-2 record the rest of the way and an AFC Championship Game appearance.
The point — one that was driven home after early-season losses in 2014 and 2017 — is the Patriots historically have been highly adept at bouncing back from September defeats. That’s why quarterback Tom Brady isn’t reaching for the panic button with his team currently sitting at 1-2.
“There’s a lot of teams that are playing well right now that we’ll talk about in a few months that won’t be playing so well,” Brady said Monday during a radio nterview on Westwood One. “And there’s a lot of teams that aren’t playing that well that in a few months we’ll talk about that are playing well. That’s the season. That’s why you don’t ride the wave. That’s why the playoffs don’t start at the end of September. They start at the end of December.”
He added: “Three games into the season, we’re not throwing in the towel. I would never do that. That’s not what this team has been about. That’s not what this organization’s all about. We’ve got to work harder. We’ve got to work smarter. We’ve got to work tougher. We’ve got to execute better. We’ve all got to look at ourselves and figure out what we’ve got to do to correct the problems, because obviously, there’s a lot of them.”
To that last point, it has been a long time since the Patriots were outclassed in back-to-back games the way they were against the Jacksonville Jaguars and Detroit Lions these past two weeks. They hadn’t lost consecutive games by double digits since 2002. (Those 2012 losses to the Cardinals and Ravens were decided by a total of three points.)
New England’s defense is struggling to rush the passer and stop the run, and its new-look offense isn’t producing. Before Sunday’s 26-10 loss to the Lions, the Patriots hadn’t failed to top 10 points in a game Brady started and finished since losing 13-6 to the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 5 of the 2013 season.
A lack of reliable weapons has been the Patriots’ biggest offensive issue. Wide receivers Chris Hogan, Phillip Dorsett and Cordarrelle Patterson haven’t been able to consistently beat 1-on-1 coverage, which has allowed opponents to double- and triple-team All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski.
Clearly frustrated, Brady took veiled shots at Dorsett, Patterson and scuffling rookie running back Sony Michel during his postgame news conference Sunday. In his Westwood One interview, though, the 41-year-old QB insisted he “absolutely” believes the Patriots have the pieces necessary to field a successful offense.
“I don’t make excuses,” Brady said. “I’ve never sat here and said, ‘Oh, I wish I had this (or) that.’ We’ve won a lot of different ways. There’s a lot of different ways to win, and I love the guys that I’m out there with. I’ve got a lot of confidence in them. We haven’t performed to the level of our expectations. It’s a simple as that.
“No one’s feeling sorry for us, and we shouldn’t feel sorry for us, because we’re the ones that got ourselves into this. So in order for us to change it, we’ve got to do better, and that starts in practice. We’ve got to execute better in practice to gain more confidence for the games.”
The Patriots’ offense should receive some help in the coming weeks with Josh Gordon preparing to make his New England debut and Julian Edelman set to return from suspension in Week 5. Brady has avoided hyping up Gordon’s arrival, however.
“I’m not going to make any projections or expectations,” he said of the former Cleveland Browns star, who was inactive against Detroit. “I just met him a week ago. He’s working to learn. He’s working to understand how we do things. And whenever he’s back healthy and out there, that’s when we really get to work on seeing what we’re all capable of when we’re out there.”
The Patriots will host the 3-0 Miami Dolphins on Sunday in their first AFC East matchup of the season.