Another week, another home loss. It would appear that the New England Patriots just aren’t going to beat anyone in the NFC this year.
For what it’s worth, these Coping With Loss articles are getting a lot easier to write. I’m not sure if that’s because I’ve already written so many of them that I’m getting better or if it’s because the Patriots keep doing the little things well or if it’s because I’m just kind of getting numb to it all... but whatever the cause, here are five more positives we can take away from this latest defeat.
The better team won. Dallas is one of the best teams in the entire NFL. They’re just a better team than the Patriots, at almost every position. Tough to really get too upset when a superior team comes in, dominates the time of possession, makes more plays, and gets the W that they deserve. Especially because....
New England hung right in there. I’m honestly not quite sure how they did it, but the Patriots were right in this game until the very end. The Patriots are just a handful of plays away from the win, and are honestly just a handful of plays from being 4-2 or even 5-1 at this stage. This team can hang with anyone. The problem, though, is that they can also lose to anyone. But if they just fix a few key issues, who knows. And to that point...
AFC is wide open. New England is only a game out of first in the AFC East. They’re also only a game out of the seven seed, even at 2-4. There’s a pretty massive jumble of teams sitting anywhere between 2-4 and 4-2, and there’s a lot of football still left to play. New England isn’t good enough to win the Super Bowl this year, but they could get hot and make a surprising late season run, maybe make some noise in the playoffs. Mac Jones is already well ahead of where I thought he’d be at this point in the year, and if he can lead this team to a late string of wins, a playoff appearance, and maybe even a win on Wild Card Weekend, I’ll take this season as a huge W for the future. The way the AFC is shaking out so far, that’s still very much on the table.
The offensive line. There’s absolutely nothing about this O line right now that can be spin zoned into a positive; let’s get that straight. But I do think that the line is the key to a lot of other things falling into place for this team. Better line play means a stronger running game (which is already strong), more time to throw, more time for plays to develop, and longer drives, which in turn translates into more rest for the defense and avoiding that unit being on the field for 40 minutes. New England was just gassed by the end of the Cowboys game, and understandably so; if the Patriots can just fix the line issues, they should be OK. Whether they’re able to do that is unclear, but looking at the talent in that unit, there’s really no reason to think that they won’t figure it out before too long.
The Red Sox are dealing right now. I know it isn’t a universal truth, but I think it’s safe to say that the majority of Patriots fans also root for the Boston Red Sox, who have been taking it to the Houston Astros like it’s nobody’s business over the last two games of the ALCS. October baseball is just the best, and the Sox have a legit shot to make the World Series. That’s the beauty of Boston sports; there’s always at least one team in the running. So while the Patriots continue to grow and develop, we can also enjoy a MLB playoff run that very few saw coming.