The New England Patriots will be trying to recapture some 2014 magic over the next two weeks. Back then, the team took a two-week road trip to Green Bay and San Diego in early December, and was able to lay the foundation for what would eventually become a championship run.
Fast forward to 2022, and the Patriots are not currently among the Super Bowl favorites. At 6-6, they are on the outside looking in in the playoff race and will very much be fighting for their playoff lives over the final five weeks of the regular season.
That battle will start with a road trip similar to the one the team took all those years back. In order to keep their postseason hopes alive, coming out of that run with a 2-0 record will be imperative.
Of course, the journey west is not just about beating the Arizona Cardinals and Las Vegas Raiders in back-to-back weeks: it is also about building toward a stretch run and potential postseason appearance — just like the 2014 Patriots did eight years ago. Safety and long-time captain Devin McCourty said so himself earlier this week.
“We have five left. All five are extremely important,” he said. “There’s no hump to get over and then you’re on the other side. I would say, starting with being able to go to the West Coast, being able to go and get away, starting with going to play Arizona, it’ll just be us. No distractions — don’t show this to my family — but all distractions and everything else that you have to handle as a husband, a father, a son, a brother, you get a break from that.”
First, the Patriots will travel to Arizona to play the Cardinals in Week 14. They will then spend the next few days practicing in Tucson at the University of Arizona before flying to Nevada to take on the Raiders in a rescheduled Week 15 matchup.
The time in Tucson in particular will be crucial for the Patriots, and take them back to a college experience for more reasons than the locale.
“You go back to being sometimes almost in college. It’s meetings, practice, back to the dorm with the guys, going over the same stuff you did in practice, watching film together,” McCourty said.
“It’s a great opportunity, going here — and we’ll be there a day early even for this Arizona game — to start that and be as prepared as possible. It’s that time of the year where you want to do anything possible to give yourself the best chance to win, and I think that’s what we have to do.”
McCourty’s statements sound a lot like the Patriots’ back in 2014.
“Being in San Diego gave us the chance to bond,” said Vince Wilfork back then. “We watched extra film, we hung out, we talked football. Everybody prepared well. We had three good practices.”
While the 2022 Patriots are obviously a lot different from the team’s 2014 version — only five of the players on the payroll eight years ago are still in New England — the hope is that this year’s late-season road trip will provide a similar chance to bond. And, ideally, to build a team that can make some noise down the stretch.