The NFL’s humorous 2023 marketing campaign – like the current king of all sports and entertainment really needs to market itself at this point -- revolves around the idea that the league’s games and seasons are scripted in advance, writers working behind the scenes to bring the most creative, fresh outcomes to football fans across the globe each September through February.
Well, if that’s the case, then the script in New England needs a bit of a rewrite because after opening the season at 0-2 for the first time since 2001 thanks to Sunday night’s 24-17 loss to the Dolphins things have already grown stale from a Patriots’ perspective this September.
Another loss. Another series of mistakes to dig an early hole on the scoreboard. Another chance to prove that Mac Jones and Co. won’t give up and have the fighting ability to make a potentially superior foe battle it out for a full 60 minutes. But in the end another example of New England’s for-now franchise QB and his teammates finding ways to keep coming up just short.
Sure this one included the late-game plot twist of Mike Gesicki lateraling his fourth-down reception to guard Cole Strange, the big man initially picking up the first down at the Miami 30 with 51 seconds to play. Hope was alive at Gillette Stadium until replay review overturned the call on the field, New England turning over the ball on downs.
It was no M. Night Shyamalan masterpiece but it was different, at least.
It would be a nice twist to the tormenting tale for Bill Belichick’s team and its more-frustrated-by-the-day fans if it wasn’t the same overall plot line.
We’ve all seen this episode before. Time after time in recent years New England can’t make the plays it needs to win against quality competition.
And it almost always makes the plays to lose, despite Belichick’s never-ending directives to the contrary.
There was no pick-6 interception this time, as was the case in the coulda, shoulda, woulda opener against the Eagles to dig a 16-0 hole. Nope, this version had late-round rookie slot jitterbug Demario Douglas committing the costly faux pas, earning a benching with his first-quarter fumble that led to a Miami touchdown drive and a 10-0 deficit.
And the literally and figuratively Strange ending was different from late-round rookie receiver Kayshon Boutte failing to get his feet in bounds in waning seconds against Philly, earning himself a spot on the inactive list a week later.
Regardless of the devilish details, it’s all the same in the end.
And it’s left Belichick with little to say, other than that his team needs to learn from yet another loss in which his team did enough to make it competitive, but not enough to win.
While it’s only two weeks into the new year, the season is trending in the same way individual games are. Games aren’t often won in the early stages, but can be lost. That certainly feels like what’s happened with the slow starts for the Patriots over the first two weeks.
Similarly, seasons can’t really be made in the first couple weeks – no playoff or Super Bowl berths will be clinched this month -- but they certainly can fall apart.
The Patriots are in last place in the AFC East. Two one-score losses to their resume in two games that were winnable almost up till the final credits rolled.
Yet, Matthew Judon is forced to open his post-Dolphins press conference proclaiming – maybe to himself, maybe to the media, maybe to teammates, maybe to his coaches, maybe to the entire world at this critical confidence juncture – that the Patriots a not a bad football team.
No, no they are not. New England is a mediocre team seemingly littered with middling talent that has gotten mediocre play on the whole through two games.
Therefore, the Patriots are also not a good football team at this point by any stretch of the imagination, scripted or not.
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