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Replay: Patriots Unfiltered Tue May 21 - 02:00 PM | Thu May 23 - 09:55 AM

View from Above: Beaten down by a familiar foe

Familiarity breeds defeat, not contempt...among the nitpicks, playmakers are M-I-A...and JR says no one, right now, is who we thought they were...


This one shouldn't have come as a surprise, but it did.

Looking back at the build-up to the Patriots' beat-down in Detroit - and it was a beat-down - we should have known Matt Patricia would have as much of the skinny on the Patriots, especially defensively, as any coach who has ever lined up across the field against them.

What the 26-10 defeat to the Lions showed was, Matty P. hadn't let the game pass him by. He wasn't as bad as some around here might have once surmised. Giving up a hundred points and a thousand yards to the Eagles in the Super Bowl? A defense with no playmaking ability and can't get off the field?

He can't coach. Good luck in Detroit.

Patricia is still only 1-2 to start his head coaching career. But he certainly got a breakthrough win against his former employer, and perhaps most importantly, he should now get some buy-in from a team that had begun to doubt his introduction of "the Patriot Way" into the Motor City.

"You could see it through the week," linebacker Eli Harold told after the game. "It's intensity every single day. I know that man don't get much sleep, but he had this date marked in his calendar for a long time. We wanted to get it for him bad, and we got the job done."

Boy, did they. The Lions were 0-2 with two dreadful defeats, staring right into the abyss at a New England team that was pushed around by new AFC bully Jacksonville a week ago. These Patriots would be motivated to come out and play at Ford Field, right?

Except, Patricia and his game plan never let them get out of the gate. Or the locker room, either. Three straight three-and-outs on offense for Tom Brady's team. Outgained 125 yards to 5 (yes, five!) in the 1st quarter. Detroit knew what was coming, and it certainly didn't help that New England's receivers could never find a way to get open.

An offensive plan to keep feeding rookie Sony Michel the ball appeared to be stubborn at best. And just wrong at worst.

The Lions had every answer for the Patriot offense, and yet, were without arguably their two best pass rushers in Ezekiel Ansah and Kerry Hyder. Instead, Patricia dialed up a scheme that disguised his coverages and kept an extra defensive back on the field to make things difficult for Brady and the offense.

Guess it worked. And on the other side of the ball, even though Detroit must have been at least a little bit nervous with only a 23-10 advantage and 12:44 still to play - two scores is nothing for Brady, right? - their plan to pound away at the Patriots' middle was enough to control the line of scrimmage...and keep the ball out of TB12's hands.

For the second straight week, New England also lost a battle in the trenches. Time to look from within on that account, perhaps. What's that old saying? You don't know what you have, until it's gone?

The Patriots knew what they had with Matt Patricia. The trouble is, he also knew what the Patriots had all too well.

Charmin soft in the middle

Detroit's sticking to a game plan - punishing the Patriots in the middle of the field - was a huge key to their success Sunday night. The Lions (and Matt Patricia) knew the Patriots would be vulnerable, and they were. They still are.

Right from the opening possession, Detroit pounded away at New England's midsection, as if a heavyweight boxer going to an opponents' midriff. A 12-play drive that consumed 7:37 may have ended up with a field goal, but a clear message was sent.

Stop it if you can. And right now, the Patriots cannot.

All you need to know is Detroit had a 100-yard rusher (Kerryon Johnson, 16 carries, 101 yards) for the first time in 71 games, since 2013. Ex-Pat LeGarrette Blount also had his moments as the Lions roared for 159 yards on the ground in 33 carries - nearly five yards per pop.

Where are the playmakers?

Through three weeks, it is becoming apparent there is a definitive need for playmakers - on both sides of the ball. But let's start with the defense first, as New England continues to have mega-trouble getting its' unit off the field on third downs.

Were the Lions only 7-for-14 on 3rd downs? Sure seemed like they hit better than .500, didn't it? And it wasn't so much the crossing routes or patterns that ran the Patriots dizzy this time, but the speed with which they attacked the corners - exposing a lack of versatility and explosiveness on the edge and at linebacker.

On offense, there were a mere four receptions by the three New England wide receivers - three caught by Chris Hogan. Philip Dorsett was targeted five times and did not make a catch, while Cordarelle Patterson was targeted only once, and caught that for 12 yards.

Rob Gronkowski was double-teamed all night long and managed four receptions on five targets for 51 yards. James White was thrown to only three times. The Patriots didn't earn their first 1st down until almost an hour had elapsed after the opening kick-off. The offense, however, could improve considerably with a few additions in the coming weeks (Julian Edelman, Josh Gordon).

When you need to have the big dogs eat to be successful, it makes sense to try and feed them, doesn't it?

A back-to-back attack

The last time the Patriots found themselves under .500 at any point in a season was six years ago, in 2012. Losses to Arizona and Baltimore in September put the team at 1-2 through their first three weeks.

Yes, the team still ended up in the AFC title game that year, but you might (painfully) recall Baltimore handled them physically in that one, advancing to the Super Bowl.

Déjà vu all over again, as Yogi Berra might say?

In fact, when back-to-back losses have occurred in recent seasons, the end-result hasn't been positive. In 2015, there were two 2-game streaks - losing at Denver and to Philadelphia in Weeks 12-13, plus losses to the J-E-T-S and Dolphins at the end of the year cost the Patriots home field advantage. The season ended with an eventual loss in the AFC Championship in Denver.

In 2011, a Super Bowl season, back-to-back L's occurred against Pittsburgh and the New York Giants...and those led to another painful loss in the big game to those same Giants.

How about in 2009? Toward the end of the year, two straight losses came at the hands of New Orleans and Miami, followed by a quick exit from the postseason in a beating from Baltimore.

Need we go on? We can in 2006 (lost AFC title game in Indy), in 2002 (missed playoffs) and even in 2001. But that 1-3 start in '01 did end up with the first Super Bowl win in franchise history, too.

Should the Patriots lose at home this Sunday to the 3-0 Miami Dolphins, they'll be 1-3. Hey, we're looking for all the positivity we can get here.

Not who we thought they were?

The Patriots' loss at Detroit wasn't the only example of craziness occurring during Week Three. How about Minnesota - at home as a 17-point favorite, on former coach Dennis Green's Induction Day to the Vikings' Ring of Honor - losing to Buffalo?

The Bills had allowed a league-worst 78 points in two lopsided losses to start the year, and manhandled Minnesota 27-6 at US Bank Stadium. A 38-point miscalculation by the oddsmakers? As the late Coach Green once said, "they're not who we thought they were. And we let 'em off the hook!"

It had been 23 years since an underdog by that margin had won a game outright.

Only three previous times had an NFL underdog of 17 points or more won their game - Washington over the Dallas Cowboys in December 1995, the New York Jets beat the Bills in December 1992 and the Baltimore Colts knocked off the Patriots in 1978.

Oh, and the closest an NFL team had come to what the Bills achieved Sunday? 2008. Miami played us all for fools with an offensive formation known as the 'wildcat,' and slapped a 38-13 defeat on the Patriots - which was a 37.5-point swing in the point-spread that day.

Did we mention the Dolphins are in Foxboro this weekend?

John Rooke, an author and award-winning broadcaster, is in his 26th season as the Patriots' stadium voice. Currently serving in several media capacities - which include hosting "Patriots Playbook" on Radio - Rooke has broadcast college football and basketball locally and nationally for more than 30 years and is a member of the Rhode Island Radio Hall of Fame and RI's Words Unlimited Hall of Fame.

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