I was kind of hoping I wouldn't have to write any of these this year.
And while that's a bit optimistic, I certainly would rather not be writing my first Coping With Loss article of 2014 before Week 1 is even over, but what can you do. It's very easy, based on Sunday's performance, to look at the New England offensive line, the New England offensive line, the New England offensive line, and the New England offensive line and see very little optimism regarding New England's 33-20 loss to Miami. However, at the end of the day, there is a lot we all need to keep in mind as we turn the page and start getting ready for Minnesota this week. So here are five positives to take away from the game that might - just might - slow the progress of things as the sky continues to collapse and the grey cloud hanging over Gillette Stadium settles in for the next five thousand years.
It's Week 1. I know things seem more dire when you drop the season opener, as if Week 1 somehow carries significantly more weight than every other week in the league, but the the hard truth is that Week 1 is actually one of the more unimportant weeks on the calendar. Obviously, every game is important, and you never want to drop a game under any circumstances, but the amount of doom and gloom that fans league-wide express over going 0-1 to start the season far outweighs what it actually means. If I'm going to lose a handful of games, I'll take a Week 1 loss over a Week 12 loss any day of the week.
At Miami. Whether it's Week 1, Week 10, or Week 17, New England at Miami is ALWAYS a tough out. Just because it's the first game of the season doesn't mean that the Patriots traveling to Miami is suddenly an easier game. Inter-divisional opponents at home are tough games, and splitting the games within the division is more or less the norm around the NFL. So let's put this game in perspective for what it actually is - an away game against a division rival that has had this game circled since the second the schedule was announced and viewed is as one of their big statement games of the year. If this one had happened in a month or so, it would suck, but it wouldn't be anywhere near as bad as this. But since this is all we have to go on so far, the knee-jerk reaction is to freak out. But to treat this loss as anything other than exactly what it is is an oversight.
Tough game out of the way early. The Pats/Miami game in Miami can have this funny way of short-circuiting a lot of mid-season momentum that New England works very hard to build; they'll rattle off four straight, look completely unstoppable, then they'll head down to Miami and drop a game that leaves everyone scratching their heads and wondering what the hell just happened. That kind of game can have a negative impact on the season as a whole, and I for one am happy that the Pats got their toughest division game out of the way right off the bat. PLENTY of time to regroup, figure out what needs to be fixed, and get back on track.
Fixable problems. Everything that went wrong for New England on Sunday - mostly in the realm of the offensive and defensive lines - are very fixable. We all knew that the O-Line was going to take some time to gel and there was going to be something of an adjustment period as they all got on the same page (it's also important to give the Miami front four the credit that they absolutely deserve). We also all knew that there were some moving pieces along the defensive line. Somewhat inexplicably, the Patriots came out in a 3-4 and stuck with it despite the fact that it (really, really) wasn't working. A lot of New England's defensive woes can most likely be fixed with a simple switch to a 4-3 and let Chandler Jones do what he does best. The bottom line is what we're all most upset about at the moment are the kind of problems that smooth out over time.
The last time the Pats lost their season opener... they had just gotten rid of an irreplaceable cog in the team and a leader of men. They were on the road against a divisional opponent that they were favored to beat. There were a few question marks, but for the most part all the experts thought that the Patriots would be 1-0 to start the year. What ended up happening instead was the Patriots getting absolutely lit up in that game. The lack of that irreplaceable cog was as apparent as apparent could possibly be. And after that blowout, and all you could hear anywhere from fans and analysts alike was how the Patriots are completely done and how the players hate their coach and how it was time for a changing of the guard in the AFC East. All the Patriots did after that was go on to record a 14-2 record and win the Super Bowl. So let's all relax. Long way to go yet. Let the rest of the AFC East enjoy their moment in the sun.
And to those of you who are sick of hearing about the 2001/2003 SB comparisons because this is a completely different team and those were completely different circumstances and what happened a decade ago ultimately means absolutely nothing in regards to this season, would you rather we bring up all the times when the Pats started the year 1-0 and then went on to lose in the playoffs? Or perhaps would you like us to simply blow up the whole season right now and not even bother watching from here on out? Are you hoping we'll just up and admit that the 2014 Patriots are awful, bow down to the powerhouses that represent the rest of the AFC East, and gear up for 2015? Or should we keep things in perspective and use the last few times the Patriots opened the year with a loss as a great example of not taking this first game of the season too seriously? Either way, there's a game coming up on Sunday, and it's time to turn the page and focus on the Vikings.