Aug 22, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick talks with the defense in the third quarter of a preseason game against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports
This is something that has been talked to death by sports analysts, and fans alike. Some say that adversity is mere hype, and is not one of the most powerful tools in sports. These people would be wrong. Adversity powers teams and players to work harder, to prove doubters, and to ultimately improve results. In general, adversity comes when it is least expected. The reason is simple. Teams that encounter times of trouble and change are usually the same teams that seem to have everything going for them, and are rapidly gaining momentum towards being one of the top teams in their respective sports/leagues. Quite frankly, you never see a team like the Cleveland Browns or the Jacksonville Jaguars face any adversity, because they haven’t elevated their level of success in quite some time, and therefore, aren’t “eligible” for any troubling times, or “back to earth” times. However year after year, the New England Patriots seem primed for bad things to happen to them, because of the success that they generate year in and year out. This 2013 team is no different, in fact I think that this team was more destined for something to happen than past teams.
This offseason, the Patriots blew up their offense (some of it wasn’t intentional), and essentially hit the restart button on the weapons surrounding the great Tom Brady. Most pundits and experts immediately proclaimed the 2013 season a lost season for the Pats, because of all the change and new faces within the system. But these so called “experts” seemed to have forgotten the greatness of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. Belichick brought in a bunch of guys to help replace the likes of Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd, and Aaron Hernandez, and Brady went to work integrating the new weapons into the offense. Reports coming out of training camp spoke very highly of guys like Kenbrell Thompkins, Danny Amendola, Aaron Dobson, Josh Boyce and Zach Sudfeld. Reporters covering the team raved on and on about the chemistry developing between Brady and the newcomers. In addition to this, the defense seemed to be coming along right on schedule, and the offensive line had picked up where it left off a year ago.
The public then got to witness what the insiders had been watching for weeks, when the Pats took the field in Philadelphia to take on the Eagles, and then again in Foxboro against Tampa Bay. We were not disappointed. The offense looked as explosive as advertised, and it looked like this team was headed for a 16-0 season (okay maybe not that good). What made them look even better was how low our expectations were after the tumultuous offseason New England had just endured. So, the Patriots were looking great and all of ‘Patriots Nation’ was expecting another banner year from their beloved franchise.
Then they ran into the Detroit Lions, and just as a team can be feeling good about themselves based on past performances, they can come crashing down in bad ones such as the one this team put forth on Thursday night. It seemed like everything was going wrong on the offensive side of the ball, the same side that looked so efficient and explosive just weeks before. The offensive line was getting dominated, the receivers couldn’t get open (aside from Thompkins), and the running backs were absolutely horrible. All the things that everybody was raving about a week earlier are now things that need real help, rather than things that need to be tweaked and perfected just right for the regular season. This all seems like a bad thing, which leads me back to my original point.
Tom Brady and Bill Belichick have dealt with it in the past, and we know how well they have learned to cope with it, and learn from it. Now the youth of the Patriots have to learn how to deal with this time of “peril”. Zach Sudfeld must learn the importance of always keeping the football secure, because keeping possession of the ball is the most important aspect in the game of football. Aaron Dobson is going to have to gain separation from his defender at some point down the road, because no matter how talented of a leaper and runner he is, Tom Brady will not trust him if he is never open. Duron Harmon will need to improve upon his tackling angles, and knowledge of where to be, when the defensive unit is in a certain coverage, specifically near the goal-line. These young players (which make up for a good portion of this team) know how to play good football when everything is going their way, and praise is being handed to them like it’s candy on Halloween. But they have yet to produce under the pressure of improving their performances and proving the doubters wrong.
This is definitely not going to be easy for them and they will be out of their comfort zone’s for quite awhile. The veterans like Brady, Mankins and Wilfork have done it, and now it is time for the young fellas to prove to the world that they can do it as well. And let me tell you something. When they figure out how to adjust, and play under the scrutiny that is the NFL, they will come out a better player, and in effect, the Patriots will come out as a better team…and that’s bad news for everybody else.