FOXBORO — Year in and year out, regardless of how good the New England Patriots actually are, you can expect Bill Belichick’s team to play well on the road.
Well, the 2018 season has been a different story.
The Patriots are 7-3, but their three losses have come on the road: Week 2 against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Week 3 against the Detroit Lions and Week 10 against the Tennessee Titans. And given the current state of the AFC, New England will need to get its road act together if it wants to play in the Super Bowl come February.
So, what’s gone wrong, and how can it get corrected?
“I think each game it’s been a little different on just not playing well,” Patriots safety Devin McCourty said Wednesday. “I think we’ve had some home games where we haven’t played well in certain moments but we picked it up. I feel like on the road we just haven’t been able to pick it up if we haven’t started well or if we’ve had a bad stretch.
“It just hasn’t kind of flipped and turned. I think that’s something that we’ve got to just keep after and try to fix.”
Matching your opponent’s energy, in the face of a raucous, hostile crowd, is incredibly important in succeeding away from home. And McCourty believes the Patriots need to do a better job of bringing the intensity for a full 60 minutes.
“I think the biggest thing is we’ve got to make some plays early in the game,” McCourty said. “You talk about bringing your own energy, I don’t think it’s as much pregame and getting a rally but it’s to open the game whether on offense, defense, special teams. It’s having guys make big plays whether that’s going three-and-out, whether it’s having a long drive offensively, like it’s coming where guys are making plays.
“I think when you see that, then you see, ‘Alright, the team looks ready to go, energetic early.’ I think we haven’t made plays early so then it’s kind of like the crowd, the away crowd gets going, so I think that’s something that we’ve really talked about individually, each guy going out there and saying, ‘You know, if a play comes my way, I’m going to make a play early and kind of get the team going.’ I think for our older guys, our veterans, our leaders, that’s something that we’ve got to do if a play comes our way.”
The Patriots will get their first crack at curing their road woes Sunday afternoon against the New York Jets. After that, New England has just two away games remaining before potentially hitting the road in the postseason.
“We have a good amount of road games left, so I think it’s a challenge and an opportunity to come out and change that,” McCourty said. “That’s going to be key as we go down the stretch, and we talk about after Thanksgiving playing your best football with a good amount of those â I forgot the exact number â being on the road.
“We have to do that or it won’t matter after Thanksgiving if we don’t play well on the road.”
Whether it be road woes, offensive inconsistency or issues on defense, there’s no denying the Patriots haven’t looked the same this season. But given the organization’s track record, fans have every reason to believe a course-correction is coming.
Jets head coach Todd Bowles, for one, isn’t buying the “demise of the Patriots” hype.