After starting the year 10-0, the New England Patriots have suddenly lost back-to-back games. The overtime loss at Denver can be forgiven, but losing in Foxboro to the 4-7 Eagles – who had lost three straight games, including back-to-back blowouts against the Bucs and Lions – yeah, that’s not quite as forgivable.
To be fair, the Patriots played the game without Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman. New England’s top pass-catchers Sunday were James White, Danny Amendola, Scott Chandler and Keshawn Martin.
Still, is it just the injuries that are plaguing New England, or is there something else at play here?
“I think a lot of it’s the injuries,” NFL Network analyst Albert Breer said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “I think it shows the value of Rob Gronkowski, who’s the one player they have offensively who can kind of carry coverage with him. You see the lack of trust in what Brady has in what’s around him right now – and that’s not just Gronk. That’s also having Amendola not quite at full strength yet and having Edelman out of the lineup. A lot of what they were able to do early in the year, they can’t do anymore. There are more options there for defenses as far as how you want to go after them.”
The Patriots, for what it’s worth still had a decent day offensively. They scored 28 points, rushed for more than 100 yards, and Tom Brady finished 29-of-56 for 312 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. Certainly not Brady’s best day in the pocket, but certainly not his worst either. New England, however, allowed three non-offensive touchdowns – including a 99-yard pick-six by Malcolm Jenkins – to spoil an otherwise solid performance by the defense.
“The defense didn’t crumble under the circumstances, so I think a lot of it comes back to what they’re putting out there offensively,” Breer said. “And even in the end, you look at the last two weeks – the way they played hasn’t been great, but you still see Brady fighting back in the end and putting his team in a position to win games.”
The Patriots trailed the Eagles 35-14 with less than six minutes to go before Brady found Chandler for a 14-yard touchdown. Brady then scored on a 1-yard run with 3:00 to go to bring New England within 35-28.
“It’s pretty amazing that Brady can still compete with what he has out there,” Breer said. “But I think the injury situation has reached a critical mass. I think you see when you take a key piece or two out, it really can expose a lot of other things. It’s not the most talented roster in the league. They’re overwhelmingly strong in a few things; you take a few things away, and then you have problems.”
The Patriots, once considered a lock for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, are now the 3-seed in the AFC. They’ll look to end their two-game skid this weekend in Houston, when they face the Texans (6-6) on Sunday Night Football.