The New England Patriots entered their week 10 game against the Tennessee Titans with a lot of momentum on their side: they had won six games in a row and just defeated the Green Bay Packers by playing their most complete game of the season. Three hours later, however, that feel-good vibe was gone after what can only be described as a bad Patriots performance from top to bottom.
Tennessee blew out the visitors 34-10 and from New England’s perspective the game was every bit as bad as the final score indicates: nearly everything went wrong, from a lack of offensive rhythm to protection breakdowns to bad decisions to sloppy man-coverage to inconsistent special teams play — you name it. Against a well-coached Titans team firing on all cylinders New England’s showing was simply not good enough.
After arguably the worst loss of the season, the Patriots now head into their bye facing a lot of questions in all three phases. Will Tom Brady bounce back from a comparatively mediocre three-game stretch? Will the reintegration of injured players like Rob Gronkowski, Shaq Mason and Sony Michel help the offense? Will the depth at the offensive skill positions finally step up? Will the offensive line bounce back once all pieces are back and healthy?
Will Stephon Gilmore show that his bad outing against Titans wideout Corey Davis was just a fluke? Will the defensive on-field signal caller please stand up (this week, Kyle Van Noy donned the green dot again)? Will the unit improve against mobile quarterbacks? Will the kick coverage get back to its usual levels of performance? Will the slow starts stop? And how about questionable coaching decisions?
All those questions (and more) will need to be addressed over the next few weeks if the Patriots want to make another deep postseason run. That being said, the team is equipped as well as any to tackle them and produce satisfying answers and results. After all, this is a squad that defeated the mighty Kansas City Chiefs. One that went on the road against a good Chicago Bears team to steal another victory. And one that thoroughly outplayed Aaron Rodgers and the Packers just one week ago.
The Patriots are capable of playing good, championship-worthy football — they have proven it time and again during their six-game win streak. However, what they have also proven today and earlier this year is that they can be wildly inconsistent and as a result put themselves in unfavorable situations through bad decisions, bad play calls, or simply bad execution. And ultimately, this is the one question all of the above boil down to.
Will the Patriots finally become a consistent team?
The bye week is a pivotal time to work on finding a favorable answer to that question as players and coaches have two weeks to work on the basics, and on building on the foundation that has been laid over the first ten games of the season. If that happens, then the attention can turn to another question — on that cannot be ignored when looking at the roster: when will the Patriots finally live up to their potential?