Tom Brady and the New England Patriots have been in this spot many times before. They have a plan to solve this mess; they just have to execute that plan.
We’ve seen this narrative many, many times before.
Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, and the New England Patriots win a Super Bowl championship. There are confetti-filled celebrations, victory parades, and trips to Disneyland, and then the roster turnover starts. Buoyed by their performances during a deep postseason run, New England’s free agents cash in on lucrative deals elsewhere.
The new season begins, and usually it takes a while for the Patriots to hit their stride. By October/November, the team looks unbeatable.
Then New England loses a game or two they shouldn’t in early December and fresh questions and doubts arise, but by the time the calendar flips over to January, the team is playing its best football once more. Typically it’s just another three wins then and the Pats are world champions all over again.
This year is a slightly different script and timeline, but the narrative remains largely the same. The Patriots lost some key pieces in the offseason (namely, Rob Gronkowski), but they still came out looking like one of the best teams in football by Halloween. New England has stumbled twice now and look about as vulnerable as they’ve been all season.
But how many people would be surprised to see this team win its last four games straight – starting this Sunday against a very talented Chiefs team – to finish with a 14-2 record and at least a first-round bye in the playoffs?
Sure, there’s no denying that this team in 2019 is different than last year’s squad that won it all. But to assume that the 2018 version is clearly superior is a bit of a stretch.
For starters, that team went 11-5 during the regular season and looked highly vulnerable for stretches of the season. It’d be a real shock to see this year’s team finish any lower than 13-3 or 12-4.
Neither one of those marks would be shameful – in fact, the Patriots seem like they’ve finished with a 12-4 record more years than not during the Brady/Belichick era, and those seasons often conclude with another Lombardi Trophy ending up in Boston.
So why is this year any different?
Understandably, the offense has not looked good this year since about the third week of the season. Specifically, the run game has disappointed in what was supposed to be Sony Michel’s encore to a sterling 2018 postseason performance, the offensive line has been a carousel of bodies, and the receivers and tight ends have failed to consistently gain separation from defenders and make routine catches.
But all hope is not lost.
Leave it to the leader of this offense, Tom Brady, to come out this week on the heels of another disappointing road loss with a healthy dose of both optimism and realism.
Brady spoke with Westwood One’s Jim Gray during halftime of Monday Night Football, and much of his conversation revolved around his apparent frustration with his teammates during the loss in Houston.
He downplayed any perceived tension or storyline that he was “tearing in” to his receivers, instead suggesting that he wouldn’t be doing his job right if he refrained from speaking out on the sidelines and on the field during games, per CBS Boston.
"“I do that quite a bit in practice. I know (my teammates) don’t always pick it up when I do speak, but I speak a lot in meetings and on the practice field, and certainly in the games in the huddle. I’m just trying to communicate what I see and a lot of guys do the same thing. It was a tough game last night; (the Texans) came out and played really well and played aggressively. When that happens you have to try to match it. They got off to a great start, we tried to battle back and we came up short in the end.”"
While Brady acknowledged that there’s no “magic formula” or “magic play” that can make this offense resemble some of the more lethal offenses of years past, he also reiterated that New England is “in a decent position at 10-2.”
He also seemed to understand why fans are upset because of the “high expectations” that always seem to follow this team while he’s under center and Belichick’s on the sideline, but he still sounded like a man who wants his team’s followers and fans to maintain a proper level of perspective.
"“I wish we could win every game and win by 50 points every game, but I don’t think that gives enough credit to the teams we’re playing. This isn’t the Harlem Globetrotters. It’s hard to win in the NFL and hard to win on the road… It just comes down to everyone believing in one another and trusting in one another, having confidence that we can go out and execute on a consistent basis. It’s one thing to say it, it’s another to do it.”"
That last part of Brady’s quote is key. He’s saying all the right things, but he knows none of it really matters until the Patriots start practicing what they preach. Brady, his teammates, and his coaches all know what they need to do to win another championship – now they just need to do it.