The New England Patriots’ season is over. While they played some competitive football at times against the Buffalo Bills, they kept shooting themselves in the foot too often to hang with one of the best teams in the league — resulting in a 35-23 defeat.
That loss did not just eliminate them from playoff contention, it also dropped the Patriots to 8-9 on the league. This means that they will finish below .500 for the third time in the Bill Belichick era:
2000: 5-11 (.313). Belichick’s first year after getting acquired via trade from the New York Jets was a classic rebuild. The team did have its starting quarterback in place — at least for that year — but had to deal with a bad salary cap situation and considerable turnover both on the roster and, naturally, coaching staff. It did show some signs of life by ending the year with a 3-3 run. One year later, the Patriots won the Super Bowl.
2020: 7-9 (.438). The first season after Tom Brady’s departure was a tumultuous one. Not only did the offense struggle to throw the football with Cam Newton inserted into the lineup as starting quarterback, the entire team and league as a whole had to deal with Covid-19. The pandemic caused several disruptions, but the fact of the matter is that New England simply was not good enough to play consistent winning football.
2022: 8-9 (.471). Coming off a playoff appearance, New England entered 2022 with high hopes. Despite fielding one of the NFL’s best defenses, however, the team struggled throughout the year: the offense failed to build any consistent rhythm in Year 1 after long-time coordinator Josh McDaniels, while special teams was hit-and-miss all year long — with the misses against Buffalo eventually sinking the Patriots’ season.
As can be seen, two of New England’s losing seasons of the Bill Belichick era have come within the last three years — bookmarking a 10-7 campaign with a wild card playoff loss. While it remains to be seen whether or not the team can return back to its winning ways in 2023 and beyond, the dry spell since Tom Brady’s departure is a disappointment for an organization and fan base that got used to consistent winning for two decades.