We have officially entered into unprecedented territory.
With New England’s sixth loss of the season, I have now written six Coping With Loss articles this year. I’ve never had to write more than five. I’ve been with the Pulpit since 2011, and I’ve never covered this team through more than five losses in a single season. That’s absolutely nuts.
But it was bound to happen eventually, so time to once again put my Spin Zone skills to the test. Some of these are easier to write than others (even I’m willing to admit that some of the past CWL articles I’ve written have really been a stretch), and this is for sure one of those. Sure, the Pats lost again, but it’s not all bad at all. Here are five reasons why.
Now it’s all about individual games. With the postseason all but off the table at this point, the final six games of the season have shifted from rounding into shape as we gear up for the playoffs to building off each individual game and making improvements at a micro level. Each game going forward now represents its own individual mini season, and if the Patriots can take the good things they do one week and build off of them going into the next, then we can take that as a huge win. And one of those things to build off of is...
Passing attack looking better. The Texans game might have been the most complete one we’ve seen in terms of a New England passing game. Multiple receivers caught balls. Byrd found the end zone for the first time all year. Newton had some nice zip on his throws. There was a solid mix of run and pass. That’s what you want to see, ideally a lot earlier in the year, but what can you do. Better late than never.
Run defense. What was a massive weakness for this team earlier in the year no longer seems to be so. It’s not perfect, but the Patriots seem to have figured out how to stop the zone stretch runs and are no longer getting gashed up the middle. The Patriots have strung together three straight games limiting the opponent’s rushing attack; in the past, we would have all been ecstatic with three straight plays without a positive run. A strong run D coupled with this secondary should give us all great reason for optimism.
Kyle Dugger. When was the last time the Patriots drafted a defensive back in the second round that really came into his own? Hell, when was the last time they took a DB in the second round that ended up doing anything? Kyle Dugger has been an absolute blast to watch in limited action this year, and he kept that going against the Texans on Sunday. Per point one above, seeing young players develop and begin forming the core of whatever this team will look like during the Roaring 20s is a good thing.
It’s Thanksgiving Week! The best week of the year! Only a few days of work in which nothing is going to get done anyway, followed by an extra long weekend where we all get to eat and drink ourselves stupid (er) before passing out on the couch to what is sure to be a wildly boring Cowboys game. No frills, no fanfare, just food, family, and thanks. Even if your Thanksgiving isn’t going to be what you’re used to this year, there is still plenty to be thankful for.