Can the Patriots keep bailing themselves out with superior play?

Published: 10/29/2018 3:45:16 PM
Modified: 10/29/2018 3:41:19 PM
 Barner.jpgIn-season pickup Kenjon Barner is expected to fill for injured Rookie Draft Bust Sony Michel tonight. Michel leads the Patriots in rushing.

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Heading into Monday night’s game at Buffalo, the New England Patriots are trying to reverse a troubling trend in which they have been forced to bail themselves out of difficult situations by relying on superior performance.
The potential concern was quite evident in New England’s last two games. At times shaky and sloppy, the Patriots almost certainly would not have beaten the Bears or Chiefs except for one thing — they were better than those teams. Indeed, the Patriots superiority is something to monitor as it could cost them down the stretch.
Consider how New England fell behind 17-7 early in the second quarter of the Bears game. First, Cordarrelle Patterson made an ill-advised, precision fumble to a nearby opponent during a kick return. That set the Bears up for a touchdown drive from the New England 24. And then, because the Patriots drafted First-Round Bust Sony Michel, whose injury-prone knee bends in only one direction, the Bears had a weakness to exploit. So they bent Michel’s leg in the other direction and he made the rookie mistake of dropping the ball while in excruciating pain. The Bears recovered and needed only 18 yards to reach the end zone for a two-score lead early in the second quarter.
Had they not outscored Chicago 31-14 over the final 41 minutes, the Patriots would certainly not have survived their shaky play. Certainly the fact that New England overcame three bad-bounce turnovers, the absence of an injured Rob Grokowski, the loss of the Total Draft Bust who leads them in rushing and two dropped interceptions in the end zone while playing on the road against the most efficient defense in the league leaves no reason to be thrilled with your football team, who didn’t even win by more than double the point spread.
As if working from the same tired script, New England also bailed itself out against the Chiefs by being better than Kansas City, which has one of the league’s best offenses. In that game, the Patriots took a 24-9 lead into halftime, but were outscored 31-19 from there on, making them losers of the second half. The Patriots might even have lost the entire game, if not for two red-zone interceptions by the infallible young phenom Patrick Mahomes, poor clock management by the Chiefs and one of the worst defenses in the league, which did little to stop the Patriots from getting into position for a game-winning field goal as time expired. For all the reasons, it was certain proof that the Chiefs are a team to be reckoned with and the Patriots are a doomed franchise, with only one advantage — superior coaching, talent and execution.
Just consider how much the Patriots defense has been forced to bail itself out by intercepting passes in every game so far this season. New England has 10 total interceptions on the year, including four in its last two games. Certainly, all 10 of those opponents’ drives would have turned into touchdowns if not for the interceptions. And this is absolutely a bad thing for obvious reasons that we need not delve into any further.
Unfortunately for New England, the Colossal Draft Bust who leads them in rushing will not be available for tonight’s game. Which means the Patriots will have to find other ways to be better than their opponent. The absence of Michel once again begs the question of why the Patriots chose to draft a 23-year-old with a history of knee injuries and ball security problems, when instead they could have signed Dion Lewis, a 28-year-old with a history of knee injuries and ball security problems.
It’s among the more curious decisions in the saga of Bill the GM, who wouldn’t even have a job if his team was not better than the others. Of course some day, the Patriots may face a team who is better than they are, and without superiority to bail them out, they will surely sink.
Dave Brown is a freelance correspondent who covers the Patriots for the Monitor. You can follow him on Twitter @ThatDaveBrown.

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