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Patriots Have a History of Bouncing Back from Bad Losses

All the hype and expectations for the 2017 Patriots season were quickly deflated in the opening night loss to Kansas City in Foxborough.  The offense could not compensate for the loss of Julian Edelman, Rob Gronkowski could not get open, and Tom Brady showed no chemistry with his receivers, beginning with the overthrow of a wide open Dwayne Allen on the first play of the game.  As bad as the offense performed, the defense was even worse.  Poor tackling and breakdowns in the secondary allowed the Chiefs to consistently move the ball up and down the field.  The Chiefs blew the game open in the fourth quarter against a Patriot defense that looked gassed and an offense that could not sustain drives.

Time to panic?  This author says not so fast.  We have all been spoiled by the unbelievably high and consistent level of play the Patriots have shown since 2001.  Losses are rare, and always lead to over-reaction from the fan base.  Patriot history in that span shows that there have been a few clunkers along the way, but more often than not, the errors are corrected and the ship is set back on the right course.  Following are a few examples of some of the more memorable poor performances by the Patriots, and a look at how they rebounded from those losses.

2003 Week 1:  Buffalo 31 - New England 0
After not making the playoffs the year following winning their first Super Bowl in 2001, the Patriots opened their 2003 season with an embarrassing loss to Drew Bledsoe and the Buffalo Bills.  Brady threw four interceptions and ended the game on the bench watching the immortal Rohan Davey finish out the game.  Speculation around the NFL was that Bill Belichik had lost the team after releasing popular safety Lawyer Milloy at the end of the preseason.

The Patriots faced a tough test in Week 2, traveling to Philadelphia to take on an Eagles team that was 12-4 and made it to the NFC Championship game the previous season.  The Patriots, 4 ½ point underdogs, trounced the Eagles 31-10.  Brady threw three touchdown passes, and the defense picked off Donovan McNabb twice.  The Patriots turned their season around and rode the momentum all the way back to the Super Bowl, winning the first of back-to-back championships.

2008 Week 3:  Miami 48 - New England 13
The Week 3 contest against the Dolphins is notable for two reasons.  It was the first home start for the Patriots after losing Brady for the season in the opener against the Chiefs.  It was also the game that saw the modern day rebirth of a short-lived offensive fad known as the wildcat offense.  Miami came into Foxborough and hit the Patriots with the unconventional attack for which the defense could not adjust.  The Dolphins racked up 461 yards of total offense, and their defense shut down the Matt Cassel led offense.

After a bye week in Week 4, the Patriots regrouped in Week 5 and knocked off the 49ers by a score of 30 – 21.  For good measure, the Patriots also gained some payback against the Dolphins later in the season with a 48 – 28 trouncing of the Fish in Miami in Week 13.  Despite finishing a very respectable 11-5 without Brady, the Patriots missed out on a playoff appearance due to losing a tie-breaker to the Dolphins for the AFC East title, and to the Ravens for a wild card berth.

2009 Week 9:  New Orleans 38 - New England 17
The Monday night contest in the Superdome was one of the most embarrassing losses in the Brady-Belichick era.  Drew Brees shredded the Patriots defense for five touchdowns and 371 yards.  The 2009 season is well known as the team that Belichick could not reach, and the Pats uncharacteristically followed the loss to the Saints with a 22-21 loss to the Dolphins in Foxborough the following week.  The Patriots rebounded with three straight wins before dropping their season finale to finish 10-6.  Despite regaining the AFC East crown, the Patriots had an early exit from the playoffs after literally getting run out of Gillette Stadium by the Ravens in the Wild Card Game.

2010 Week 9:  Cleveland 34 - New England 14
This loss is memorable for the fact that the Patriots possibly took a 3-5 Browns team lightly and was never able to get it going on the road in Cleveland.  Peyton Hillis ran all over the Patriots' defense for 184 yards and two touchdowns.  The Patriots may have been looking ahead to a Week 10 match-up against the 6-2 Steelers, who they rebounded to beat soundly by a 39-29 score in Pittsburgh.  The Patriots ran off seven more wins to finish the regular season at 14-2.

2015 Week 4:  Kansas City 41 - New England 14
The Patriots got off to a slow start in 2015, losing their opening game to the Dolphins before winning two straight heading into a Monday night contest in Kansas City against the 1-2 Chiefs.  What followed was a total spanking by Kansas City, which had many speculating that the Patriots days of dominance were over, and that age was catching up to Brady.  The Chiefs scored early and often, running out to a 27-0 lead in the third quarter on their way to 443 yards of total offense.  Brady looked panicked and was intercepted twice, the final time being a pick six which led to the end of Brady’s night and the first appearance of Jimmy Garoppolo in the regular season.  Garoppolo led the Patriots on a late touchdown drive, hooking up with Rob Gronkowski in the end zone.

After Brady’s benching and Garoppolo’s performance in garbage time, sports pundits outside New England were gleefully extolling the demise of the Patriots.  The Patriots' decline was further validated by Vegas odds makers making the Patriots a 2 ½ point underdog at home against the Bengals.  Belichick responded with the classic phrase which became the mantra of the team’s approach from that point on – “We’re on to Cincinnati.”  The Patriots came out on a mission against the Bengals, who wanted to crawl under the Foxborough turf before the first half was over.  The Patriots rolled to 43-17 win against Cincinnati and added on six more wins to silence the critics on their way to their fourth Super Bowl win.

2017 Week 2: We’re on to New Orleans
While a Week 2 game is far from a must-win, the 2017 Patriots team has a daunting task ahead of them against the Saints.  The Patriots receiver corps is further depleted by the loss of Danny Amendola to a concussion.  The defense, which showed breakdowns in coverage and containment against the Chiefs, will be without signal caller Dont’a Hightower (out with a MCL sprain) and possibly without safety Devin McCourty (questionable with a groin injury). 

Brees is still a dangerous quarterback, and the Saints have the potential to rack up the points on offense.  The Patriots need to work out the kinks on offense to sustain drives and keep the defense off the field.  The game will likely be a shoot-out, and may come down to who has the ball last.

While investors will tell you that past performance is no guarantee of future returns, history has time and again shown us that the Patriots usually come back strong after demoralizing losses.  Vegas has learned this as well, setting the Patriots as six point favorites against the Saints.  While this author does not recommend betting on the Patriots, I would not bet against them either. 

Follow Bill on Twitter @BTravers_BSoT. 

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