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The Beginning of the Patriots’ Drop Off?

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(AP Photo/Steven Senne)

(AP Photo/Steven Senne)

AP

AP

(AP Photo/Steven Senne)

Xavier Aguiar

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Rob Bell said it best: “The best team does not always win, it’s the team that plays the best.”

In most NFL communities if your team wins, you will feel generally happy no matter how you get there. This makes sense: even if you played badly, at least they got the job done. However, after a 36-33 comeback win over the Texans, Patriots fans everywhere are feeling a little worrisome.

On Monday morning, Pats fans from across New England should have been sending thank you letters (or in 2017, I guess, thank you tweets) to Texans’ safety Corey Moore. With a minute left in the game with the Patriots trailing 33-28 on a 3rd and 18, Tom Brady threw a deep floater over the middle of the field to Pats star Wide Out Brandin Cooks. The ball was off target and was on a direct path with Moore. He caught the ball and held onto it, and at the last possible moment with no contact, dropped it.

Two plays later, Tom Brady threw a laser to Brandin Cooks who made a heck of a catch to get both feet in bounds and scored what was the game winning touchdown. Who was covering Cooks on that play? You guessed it, Corey Moore. Instead of hitting Cooks out of bounds, for whatever reason, Moore decided to jump around him and presumably knock the ball down, but was way too late.

The Texans really couldn’t do anything in the time they were given, and Texans quarterback, Deshaun Watson’s, last ditch Hail Mary effort was spoiled by Duron Harmon, who got the game sealing interception for New England.

The issue is not the Patriots ‘offense, however, Corey Moore fails aside. Besides the offensive line, which played horribly (allowing five sacks), the offense looked pretty solid, amassing 396 yards and only committing one turnover.

The issue is the Patriots’ defense. Yes, they forced two turnovers, but one was the aforementioned Hail Mary and the other was a play where Watson got clocked as he threw and Stephon Gilmore (who got burned on the play by Texans WR Deandre Hopkins) was in the right place at the right time to get the pick.

The Patriots, who historically dominate rookie quarterbacks at Gillette, looked feeble against rookie Texans QB Deshaun Watson. Watson, who was the 12th pick in the 2017 NFL draft seemed to have all day to throw. Outside of Patriots defensive end Trey Flowers, who had a sack and 3 QB hits, no one else could generate much pressure against the abysmal Texans offensive line, who before Sunday’s contest had allowed 13 sacks along with constant pressure. Discounting his Hail Mary at the end of the game, Watson completed 69% of his throws, had 41 rushing yards and constantly found his first read.

The Patriots may have the number one offense in the NFL, but their defensive rankings include 32nd in Total Points Allowed, Total Yards Allowed, Passing Yards Allowed, and Rushing Yards Allowed.

This is pretty shocking to those in the NFL. For a defense that includes a lot of firepower, including All-Pros Devin McCourty along with Malcolm Butler, and established veterans like Alan Branch and Patrick Chung, not to mention the young rising stars like Trey Flowers and $65 million dollar offseason addition Stephon Gilmore, the Patriots have statistically the worst defense in football. So what is the problem?

Without star linebacker Dont’a Hightower, the linebacking play has been atrocious. Kyle Van Noy has not lived up to his contract extension and is constantly getting burned by Running Backs in coverage and being late on plays. David Harris looks old when he’s been out there and Elandon Roberts has been pretty good but still allows too many completions in coverage.

Also, besides Malcolm Butler and Devin McCourty, coverage has been very poor. Patrick Chung has never been an elite coverage guy, but it’s getting clearer each week that the smart decision would be to start Duron Harmon who is statistically much better in coverage. Saying Stephon hasn’t lived up to his monster contract. Getting Burned by the deep ball and showing a complete lack of effort were some of the complaints Buffalo had with him, and it’s showed on the Pats. Throughout the first three weeks, he’s been a total defensive liability and has been hard to watch at times.

Before the 2017 season, there was a lot of 16-0 talk and how this Patriots team could be the best ever. It is apparent by week three that this team is not only not even close to that level, but they are worse than last year. The talk of a repeat has been hushed and the problems are bigger than anything anyone in New England ever expected regarding this team. This may be the cracks coming to fruition of the eventual end of the Belichick empire….

 

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The Beginning of the Patriots’ Drop Off?