New England Patriots September Struggles – Time to Hit the Panic Button?

FOXBOROUGH, MA - SEPTEMBER 30: Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots sits on the field during the second half against the Miami Dolphins at Gillette Stadium on September 30, 2018 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

How many NFL teams can you count on being consistent year in and year out to produce, win games and make successful playoff runs? There are many teams that seem to get the nod in both the AFC and NFC respectively. However, one team seems to dominate each season. The New England Patriots under the coaching of Bill Belichick, are that team. With Tom Brady as their quarterback, it’s no surprise to see the Patriots in the postseason. What seemed to be surprising, however, were the Patriots with a 1-2 start on the season, until they won week four against the Miami Dolphins to go up 2-2. Or was it? Should we scramble for the panic button? 

Historically, the Patriots utilize the month of September as “preseason part two”. For many years, New England has started the first four weeks of the season with a 2-2 record. The first four weeks have also given many sports analysts ammunition to try and “end” their dynasty. And every time, the Patriots go on to post-season parades smiling with a 12-4 or 13-3 record. So, should we even worry about the Patriots in September?

We’re on to the rest of the season. 

Two words. Tom Brady.

As long as that quarterback is on the field, the Patriots should have nothing to fear. Even with Brady, being 41 years of age. Nothing is stopping him from playing at an elevated rate. The last few seasons have proven, that it is not about the start of the season. Take the 2014 season for example. New England found themselves demolished in week four against the Kansas City Chiefs. After the game, sports analyst Trent Dilfer, famously declared the Patriots as, “a weak team” and “not good anymore”. While everyone else hit the panic button, they ignored the noise and went on to become Super Bowl XLIX champions.

AFC East.

The Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins and New York Jets are all in the AFC East division which the Patriots play. Since Brady has been a Patriot, they have single handedly worn the crown 15 times in the past 18 seasons. This also includes a 9 year streak of being number one in the division. If they can continue this year, they will undoubtedly run the AFC East for a decade. What an accomplishment for such a successful organization.

Is it time to push the panic button?

Who is Brady throwing to?

When you look at the depth chart, the names of the receivers in New England aren’t shocking the world just yet. Chris Hogan, Matthew Slater, Phillip Dorsett and Julian Edelman are all returning from last season. With Julian Edelman suspended, the first four games of the season, the next man up mentality had to been adopted. Phillip Dorsett was traded to the Patriots last year for quarterback Jacoby Brissett. While Dorsett had limited playing time last season, look for his breakout role to come this year with New England.

The Patriots also acquired receiver, Cordarrelle Patterson via trade from the Raiders back in March. He has been a great asset so far this season, which he looks to build upon. Josh Gordon was also handed to Bill Belichick as a viable offensive weapon. While we have only seen him in limited action this season, it looks as if he should ramp things up catching passes from Tom Brady. The only reason we should tap the panic button is if he falls into his old habits. Only time will tell.

Can the defense be a wall?

Week one of the season showed promising starts for the defense. Several teammates accounted for key stops in the New England defense. However, the past few weeks have shown that there is still a lot to work on. Donta Hightower, linebacker, seems to be starting the season slower than in past years. Thankfully, Kyle Van Noy has been able to step into that role with some key stops for the defense. Unfortunately, rookie Ja’Whaun Bentley, who had great potential was placed on IR. These were just small hiccups in the overall defensive plan. However, with the return of Patrick Chung and Trey Flowers, they should be able to pull together and become a complete defensive front once again.

Final Thoughts

The New England Patriots have had their high and low weeks. Right now, we are looking at a team that has a lot to work on and will figure it out in the next few months. The NFL loves to see the Patriots in a weak state. It gives hope to other teams that maybe, Tom Brady’s reign is coming to an end. But to say the end is this month, this season or this year is a bit of a stretch. Look forward to October and November as the Patriots gear up into their normal groove and keep winning football games. Unless of course, this is the cliff and we are watching the end of an era. In which case, let’s not worry about the New England Patriots in September.

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