EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

September 20, 2010

Maybe Pats simply aren't tough enough

Bill Burt

Bill Burt

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Where have we seen this, a facsimile of the New England Patriots' 28-14 loss to the New York Jets, before?

Where the entire New England Patriots team opens the game not looking good, but great, with Tom Brady, Wes Welker and Randy Moss looking like first ballot Hall of Famers.

Hell, even the Patriots ballboys look more spiffy and together than the other team's grunts.

You wonder if the other team, be it the New York Jets or Indianapolis Colts, is worthy to be in their presence. You wonder if the Patriots will ever lose another game. You wonder how Bill Belichick has this mediocre group of young defenders playing at such a high level.

Then the second half begins.

And soon very little makes sense.

Brady looks confused and angry. Moss sulks and appears disinterested. Welker is either double-covered or doesn't get open. And if Belichick's defense stunk any more it would need a sewage permit.

You saw this same Patriots' show last night. It was the same show you saw about five or six times last year — the Patriots version of Groundhog Day, the movie.

The Patriots lost the second half, 18-0, yesterday.

Moss made the best catch of the year near the end of the first half, grabbing a pass with one hand in the back of the end zone and then he wasn't heard from again in the second half.

Brady wasn't much better completing only 7 of 16 second half passes, including two interceptions (both with Moss' help).

A few times this summer, Brady went out of his way to say this 2010 team was different, referring particularly to last season's mess (see playoff tilt versus Baltimore).

He wasn't saying that last night.

"It is going to be a long week, I can tell you that," said Brady. "We gotta get the ball in the end zone ... We had way too many third and longs. We couldn't run. We couldn't pass ... We just sucked."

Where have the nasty Patriots of a half-dozen years ago gone? Where are the forced fumbles? Where have the 100-yard rushers gone? Where are the playmakers?

I'm beginning to wonder if this offense, while sexy, is more suited for flag football than winning championships in the National Football League. Good-to-very good defenses, after about 30 minutes of official action, figure something out.

Running back-by-committee looks good on paper. But isn't the real issue the fact that the Patriots really don't have a 20-carry-a-game running back?

It wasn't that long ago that the fourth quarter was the Patriots' finest hour. When a field goal or a few first downs would be enough to clinch the game and the Patriots would get either.

The Patriots are in for a rude awakening. Sure, they get the Red Sox version of the Baltimore Orioles up next on their schedule in the Buffalo Bills, but the Jets aren't the only threat to their place in AFC East.

The Miami Dolphins overcame some horrible turnovers in the second half to win another road game, this time in Minnesota. I couldn't help but wonder if the Patriots defense could stop the Vikings offense on that last drive. My humble opinion? No.

So where do the Patriots go from here?

They can beat the smithereens out of the Bills next Sunday and then figure out what they want to be the next week in Miami.

Tough talkers or a tough team. Or, in the Jets case, both.

E-mail Bill Burt at bburt@eagletribune.com.