Week 1 is in the books, and the New England Patriots are 0-1. Starting the season with a loss isn’t all that new to the Patriots, but obviously it’s always better when you open the year with a W.
However, if you aren’t happy and optimistic based on what we saw on Sunday, odds are you’re one of those fans who is still trying to adjust to NFL reality after two straight decades of dominance. And that’s OK; it’s not your fault. It’s the only life you’ve known. But trust me when I say that there is more to be happy that unhappy about this morning, despite the loss, and if you give 2021 the proper perspective, we’re already well ahead of schedule.
Of course, these are Patriots fans I’m talking to, which means that every single loss is a complete embarrassment and Bill Belichick has lost this team and whatever else is out there in the universe. But for those of you with some actual perspective, here are five positive takeaways from Sunday’s game.
It’s Week 1. You obviously want to start off the year with a win...but ultimately who wins and who loses in Week 1 is completely irrelevant. It’s a long season ahead of us, so it’s difficult to get too worked up over an early season loss, even if it’s to a divisional opponent. The Patriots team that will travel to Miami at the end of the season will be a completely different unit, so it’s all good. Especially because...
Wins and losses don’t really matter this year. I can’t emphasize this point enough. Wins and losses in 2021 really don’t matter. I’m going to say it again so it sinks in: WINS AND LOSSES THIS SEASON REALLY DON’T MATTER. It seems weird to say that...but New England’s record at the end of this season isn’t at all important. There’s a rookie QB under center and this is an entirely new team. The Patriots are in the process of rebuilding and retooling, and this year is much more about developing chemistry and giving Mac Jones the confidence he needs to lead this team back on a championship run in a few years. The Pats aren’t winnng the Super Bowl this year and they aren’t in position to make a deep run as of now. So I’m not putting any real weight on the losses this team will inevitably suffer this season.
This loss isn’t on Mac Jones. If I can type that sentence after every loss the Patriots suffer this year, I’ll be a very happy man. The bottom line is that the Patriots most likely win this game if not for a red zone fumble by Damien Harris, and I’ll take that result all day. Jones looked very solid in his professional debut, and other than a first drive backwards pass to Jonnu Smith he never should have made, I can’t think of a single thing he did yesterday that deserves any real criticism. Whenever we can’t place blame for the loss at the feet of the rookie, I’m going to be totally fine with that.
The rest of the AFC East lost as well. The Jets and Bills both lost today as well, putting Miami as the only team in the division with a win. There’s slightly less than zero percent chance that the Dolphins with the AFC East, so in terms of standings and divisional rankings and all that good stuff, this is something of a wash. Obviously, winning at home against a divisional opponent matters...but if you’re going to take an L and home, this is the week to do it, based on how the rest of the division shook out.
This is fun. It is, isn’t it? Looking at each game as a growing opportunity and not having that absurd pressure that we’ve been dealing with for so long? I know I’m enjoying it, and hopefully you are too. While I wouldn’t trade the last 20 years of fandom for anything in the world - it’s something that I’ll be grateful I was alive to experience until the day I die - our perception of what a season should be has been completely warped. So now it’s time to enjoy a season in its entirety. No waiting around for the regular season to be over so the real work can start. No expecting a trip to the Super Bowl no matter what. No ridiculous expectations. No watching a pandemic-altered season with a stopgap quarterback who doesn’t represent the future of this franchise. We’re all watching the next iteration of the New England Patriots develop in real time, and I’m here for all of it. I hope you all are too. This season, completely free of expectations or scrutiny, is going to be an absolute blast. Let’s all enjoy it. It’s been a very, very long time since we’ve had a freebee season.