Patriots Blog

Can the Patriots emerge from the darkness to beat the Steelers?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008
AN UNDISCLOSED LOCATION NEAR FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — It is a dark time for the New England Patriots.

Not since their last Earth-shattering and embarrassing loss have the Pats endured the kind of Earth-shattering and embarrassing loss they suffered at the hands of the Miami Dolphins last Monday. Nearly everyone is hurt, and everyone who isn’t hurt is injured. There is legitimate fear that Tom Brady is no longer good at football. Some wonder if he ever was.
Although their retreat from Miami saw a safe return to team facilities, a legion of talent from Pittsburgh has knocked New England off its perch atop the American Football Conference. How? By scoring 39 points against the Baltimore Ravens last Sunday and only allowing 38.
In preparation for this weekend’s seemingly doomed trip to play the invincible Steelers in Pittsburgh, the team conducted operations from a remote outpost deep underground. Alex Guerrero was not allowed in. At least not according to reports that suggested Brady’s personal trainer might be exactly what’s wrong with this team. But then Guerrero appeared in the bunker. In front of the media and everything. Multiple times. So, then everybody decided that Guerrero probably isn’t tearing the Patriots apart.
Unless he is.
While the exact source of New England’s death spiral is unclear, it is clear that their one-score loss to the Dolphins began a death spiral from which no team could conceivably recover. Especially a team whose quarterback threw two interceptions in the same game. Given that it’s now too late trade for DeShone Kizer, some have suggested the Patriots may now lose as many as four regular-season games this year. In other words, the Pats are dying. And so it goes.
Like all death marches, this one is going through Pittsburgh. What makes the Steelers so tough? “Everything,” said a despondent Bill Belichick on Wednesday, with eyes that seemed to drift inward toward a lost dream of what a football team could and should be.
Some would point out that Belichick’s Patriots have been extraordinarily successful against the Steelers. In games that Brady has started, New England is 10-2, including a 3-0 mark in the playoffs. But the coach is unmoved by those results.
“Those games don’t really mean anything now,” Belichick said. “It’s just about this matchup this week.”
And this week, the Patriots have to stop running back Le’Veon Bell and wide receiver Antonio Brown, the two greatest players in NFL history. It is widely known that no defense has ever stopped them. They remain on pace for infinity yards and infinity touchdowns.
What makes Brown so good? “Everything,” Belichick said. “Just make a list, he’s on all of it.”
And Bell? “He does everything. He does it well, does whatever he needs to do. You give him an opening, wherever it is, and he's going to make you pay for it.”
If the Patriots can somehow do the impossible and defeat a team that Brady has beaten 83 percent of the time, then they may not have to suffer the indignity of playing a postseason game on the road this year. But don’t get nutty. The Steelers are a team that gave up only 38 points to Joe Flacco and the Ravens last week.
It is a dark time in Patriots Nation. Some remain fixated on a time travel device that could return Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett. Could that fix future? Maybe go further back. Jamie Collins? Chandler Jones? It’s a tantalizing option, because it’s clear that not even a win today could fix this team. Some wonder if even an improbable (impossible?) victory in Super Bowl LII would be enough to save the Patriots from this shroud of darkness. No one is betting on it.
Dave Brown is a freelance correspondent who covers the Patriots for the Monitor. You can follow him on Twitter @ThatDaveBrown.