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The New England Patriots Road Woes Mirror Those of the 2009 Team

The Jekyll and Hyde act continues. After another vomit-inducing performance on the road for the New England Patriots, this disturbing trend is becoming a little bit more of the rule, rather than the exception. The Patriots have now played 5 road games, won 2, but have played poorly in 4 of them - though they managed to come away with a victory in Buffalo.

The worst part? All three losses have been non-competitive, and against relatively average competition. It's very likely that all three teams that have dominated the Pats - Jacksonville, Detroit and Tennessee - will be watching the playoffs from home this year. They have a combined record of 11-16 and only one, the Titans, have a realistic chance at playing in January.
via Getty Images

This season is starting to bring to mind the 2009-10 season. For Pats fans that don't remember, you probably have sub-consciously blocked it out. All I need to say is Ray Rice to wake up those demons. This is the year the Pats slogged through a 10-6 season, and then got absolutely smoked at home on Wild Card Weekend by the Baltimore Ravens. Ray Rice took the first play from scrimmage 83 yards for a touchdown and they never looked back.

The 2018 Pats have more talent than that '09 team did, which makes the similarities even more unsettling. If there is something more opposite than Jekyll and Hyde, the home version of the Patriots and the road version were just that in '09. New England went 2-6 on the road that season. However, one of those wins came in London, so they really won 1 true road game all year. Of course, it came in Buffalo, but it didn't come until December.

This was also the year in which Bill Belichick is on camera lamenting to Tom Brady during a blowout loss to New Orleans, that he just can't get this team to play how he wants them to. To which Brady responded that the team plays well in spurts, but just not for four quarters. Preach. 

The same can be said about the current Patriots. We've seen flashes of solid play on the road, but it's usually sandwiched in between a bunch of garbage, and it doesn't come until they are down double digits.

That wasn't an early season observation from Belichick either. He made that statement in the closing moments of Week 12, a time of year where the Patriots have historically been playing their best football of the season. That wasn't the case in 2009.

On the road that year, the Patriots allowed five quarterbacks to pass for 300+ yards (including the likes of Chad Henne and Kyle Orton), compared to just one at home. The defense allowed about 25 points per game on the road, and just 13 at home. They also allowed twice as many touchdowns on the road, 21 to 10.

This year, the Pats are allowing about 25 points per game on the road, and 21 at home - if you take out the 40 point outburst by the Chiefs, that number shrinks to 17. The team is allowing over 430 yards of offense in road games, compared to just under 370 at home.

It's not just the defense that suffers though. The offense has been just as bad, if not worse. In 2009, the Pats offense averaged 35 points per game in home contests. On the road, just 20. They averaged 40 less rushing yards per game on the road and the quarterback rating was a full 27 points worse (108.5 compared to 81.5).

You'll find similar trends this season. At home, the Pats offense hums to the tune of 31 points per game, nearly 140 rushing yards as a team and a QB rating of 102.2. On the road, the team can't seem to generate any offensive momentum. They're averaging just 20 points per game, 79 rushing yards and have a QB rating of 88. All three losses have been by double digits, and the Pats have twice failed to score more than 10 points. 

For anybody who has watched this team this year, these numbers shouldn't come as a shock. It's been like watching two completely different teams.

The road woes are problematic for a couple of reasons. One, it's brutal to watch; ruins my whole Sunday. More importantly though, it appears that the Patriots' path to the Super Bowl this year is going to be forged away from Gillette Stadium.

With Sunday's loss, the Pats now sit two games behind the Kansas City Chiefs for home field advantage. Now, they do own the tiebreaker, so they only have to finish tied with the Chiefs. They don't have to pass them. Kansas City has some difficult games remaining - including games against both the Los Angeles Rams and Chargers.

Yet, even if the Chiefs happen to slip up twice, the Patriots would need to win the rest of their games. They certainly could, but there's a three game stretch in December that will provide some resistance; home against Minnesota, then at Miami and at Pittsburgh.

I'm a "glass half full" kind of guy when it comes to the Patriots. I will never count them out, always trying to find the positive in any situation - to the point where people think I'm delusional. It's very likely that the return of a healthy Rob Gronkowski could do wonders for this team, and these road struggles could be nothing more than a few blips on the radar. 

With games at Miami and Pittsburgh, New England still has some opportunities to show they can perform well away from home. This team is not the 2009-10 team. They are better. However, if they can't start to play well on the road, and soon, they may suffer the same fate.

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