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Patriots quarterback Tom Brady explains what makes a good road team

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New England ended its road campaign with a 3-5 record.

NFL: New England Patriots at Pittsburgh Steelers Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

One of the New England Patriots’ defining qualities over the past two decades has been the team’s ability to perform well on the road. Since 2001, the team has won 69% of its road games during the regular season — going 99-45 in the process — and finished with losing records away from Foxboro just twice: in 2009, New England went 2-6; this year, the team finished its slate of road contests with a 3-5 record.

While comparisons between the two teams are only appropriate to a certain point, their issues playing outside of Massachusetts are well-documented. As for the 2018 version of the Patriots it won against the Chicago Bears — the NFC’s third-best team at the moment — as well as the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets. New England dropped its road games in Jacksonville, Detroit, Tennessee, Miami and most recently Pittsburgh.

“All of these games are all a little bit different,” quarterback Tom Brady said about his team’s issues playing away from home. He himself is inconsistent in this regard: while Brady is completing a higher percentage of passes (69.6 to 63.1) and throwing for more yards per game (306.2 to 267.8) at home, his touchdown-to-interception ratio (12:6 at home, 12:3 on the road) is actually better on the road.

Despite that, the 41-year old quickly pointed out the Patriots have not played well when traveling this year “We obviously haven’t played very well on the road,” Brady said when asked about it after New England’s loss against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday. “What we are doing isn’t good enough. It’s just a cumulative thing. We’re out here as a team trying to compete — when you’re on the road, you have to play well.”

“Some things are a little bit more challenging on the road, we have to embrace those things, and we just haven’t done a great job on that,” Brady continued. Prior to Sunday’s game, the future Hall of Famer actually pointed out what “those things” might look like: during a press conference leading up to the Patriots’ 17-10 defeat, Brady explained what makes a good road team in his opinion.

“It’s just making critical plays and it’s great complementary football,” he said. “Being on the road, the momentum can change very quickly. One play changes the whole game. We’ve seen that a lot playing at home, when you use the crowd to your advantage and everyone’s kind of into it and waiting for something to happen. As soon as something good happens for us, it just snowballs quickly.”

One of those snowballs on Sunday came in the form of penalties. New England was flagged a season-high 14 times (a 15th was declined by the Steelers), with nine of the infractions being either of the procedural or pre-snap kind. The Patriots continued making negative plays and ultimately lost a combined 106 yards due to penalties in a close game that was decided by just seven points.

“You’ve got to keep [the snowball effect] from happening on the road,” Brady continued. “You’ve got to play well offensively. You’ve got to do a good job of possessing the ball, third down and so forth. Defensively, big plays and those really get the crowd into it and the kicking game, just playing solid.”

For most of the year, the Patriots have been inconsistent in all the areas Brady mentioned — on both sides of the football and both at home but particularly on the road. And unless the playoff picture changes drastically, New England might have to play there again at one point during the postseason. And if that happens, the goal has to be clear: “There’s no secret,” Brady said. “It’s just playing a great complementary game.”