Advertising

replay
Patriots Replay Mon Feb 18 | 12:00 AM - 11:59 PM

View from Above: No such thing as a 'bad' road win 

20181022-ViewFromAbove-2500x1406

For whatever reason we seem to dismiss, or discount, winning games away from home a bit more than we should.

Why is that? The knee-jerk reaction to this from a New England perception certainly centers on the overall success of the team over the past two decades, of course. The Patriots have not had a losing record away from Gillette Stadium since 2009, and in only two seasons since 2000 have they failed to win at least half of their road games.

So far this season, the Patriots are 1-2 away from home after holding off Chicago at Soldier Field 38-31 Sunday. The three games played have all been a struggle in one form or another, compared to playing this season in Foxboro. Not much doubt about that.  

Tangible success overall tends to spill over and cover up the mistakes, the blemishes and the losses. Even if the Patriots weren't as successful on the road (and numerically they're not, compared to home games), the bottom line is how a team finishes a season. How is a team ultimately remembered?

By winning. When you compete for - and win - championships, a lot of the dirty details are left buried under the turf.

The point here is, it's always been tough to win on the road, even if we haven't noticed it much around here. The home team in the NFL has won nearly 60% of all games played since 1990, even though it seems like more.  

No team since 2002 has managed to win away from home more often than they win at home, not even the Patriots. The New York Giants are close, but they're presently running a big-time fade route away from the win column.

The Patriots, however, have won on the road more than anyone else over the past 16 years. As such, we're in the unique position of creating an assumption for a Pats' win almost every week.

You know what happens when you assume, right? You make an "ass" out of "u" and "me." 

Any win on the road, away from the comforts and familiarity of the home field and its surroundings, should be appreciated for what it is - a tough thing to accomplish. There's noise and distraction in an opponents' stadium. There's unfamiliarity with facilities, a strange environment (sometimes unfriendly) to get used to...different schedules to adjust to, and travel to deal with.

On top of that - playing the game itself. There's a game plan for the opponent. There are invariably injuries to overcome (like this past weekend) and any momentum you might have on your bench doesn't always travel alongside for the ride to an opponent's city or stadium.  

Parity is the name of the game in the present-day NFL, so when all things are even?  

Focus on keeping away from potential distractions or problems becomes more important.

New England seems to do this better than most over the past two decades, true. The numbers tell us this. But that doesn't mean it's easy to do. We're seeing some of that this season. Style points don't matter, if the final score is in your favor.

Winning on the road should always be appreciated for what it is - hard to do. For most in the NFL, anyway.

Now, let's get nitpicky

Where do we begin? Should we start with the inability to sustain the opening drive of the game past, let's say, beyond the opening drive? Turnovers were an issue, yes. And when playing on the road, those results sometimes magnify themselves into eventual losses.

Chicago's defense leads the NFL in scoring 65 points off turnovers, adding 21 more to that total Sunday afternoon. Three New England turnovers led to three Chicago touchdowns. Taking care of the ball, especially on the road, is usually paramount to having success.  

Why did this time turn out differently? Special teams' results (Kick-off return, blocked punt) for touchdowns helped negate the effects of turning the ball over. Without those, this story likely has a much different ending.

Contain the QB

The Patriots have had difficulty with mobile, "athletic" quarterbacks so far this season. Maybe it's the way they're scheming things? Maybe it's defending situational play? And maybe it's because they don't believe the opposing QB can beat them with his legs or other intangibles.

Except for Jacksonville, that's largely been accurate. And it makes for a scary scenario when it comes to watching the Patriots' defense. The Patriots didn't appear to put much stock in Mitchell Trubisky's ability to make plays on the move. Except that he did just that - he made plays on the move, to the tune of 81 rushing yards on a mere six carries, nearly outgaining the entire Patriot team on the day.

Trubisky also passed for 333 yards (which includes the 54-yard Hail Mary at the end) and led the Bears to a 50% conversion rate on 3rd down.  This QB was not contained in the least bit, except for the two interceptions pulled in by J.C. Jackson and Jonathan Jones.

Bent over, and nearly broken

The entire "bend but don't break" theory was put to the supreme test Sunday, and the NE defense survived. Bear-ly.  

Pardon the pun, but when your defensive unit allows 95 points over the past three weeks (tied for 2nd most under Bill Belichick over a three-game stretch), allows turnovers to turn into touchdowns, can't stop the QB from making plays with his legs and still leaves gaping holes up the middle beyond the line of scrimmage - on top of almost allowing Hail Mary to beat you at the end - well, it's time to go back to the drawing board.

Or go to something else, at least. 'Cuz this ain't workin'.

Tight end Trey Burton never saw so much room and space with which to work. Nine catches (on 11 targets) for 126 yards and a touchdown, almost all of it right up the gut of the defense. Add to that six of the seven accepted penalties (for 64 yards) came from the defense and special teams, which means second or even third chances on certain plays.

Fortunately, the Patriots have an offense that is hard for the other guys to stop, too. Even without Rob Gronkowski this week. That's the difference between this team being where you think they belong - and reality.


Let's Make a Deal

Anyone else thinking a trade or two might come in handy right about now, considering the injuries and ineffectiveness seen on the field of late? With the trading deadline about a week away, rumors continue to persist from all directions.

The trouble with trading, however, is that it takes two to tango. Both teams need to feel like they 'win' in any trade. For instance, Dallas traded with Oakland for receiver Amari Cooper, giving up a 1st round pick in return. The Raiders are in a rebuild-mode. Dallas is in a fight within the NFC East and needs receivers. Both are motivated in their own way.

While the Patriots could use help at running back, at linebacker and perhaps in the defensive backfield, remember that both sides need to benefit before swinging any deal.  

Maybe it would surprise you to learn this, but there probably aren't too many teams out there willing to give the Patriots what they want or need - unless the Patriots offer something they want or need, too.

Just Another Group of Guys?

The transformation from Super Bowl contender to pretender has been astonishing in Jacksonville.  

After backing their QB all off-season (with a three-year, $54 million deal), Blake Bortles found himself benched Sunday in the Jags' 20-7 loss to Houston. Head coach Doug Marrone says he knows who will start for his team next weekend in London against the Eagles, but he isn't saying anything.

He doesn't have to. Change is on the way in J'ville, or the coach most likely would have already quashed any talk of a QB takeover. After taking September by storm, the Jags look like, well, a bunch of Jags. The locker room even imploded into a shouting match in the wake of their loss to the Texans.

Good thing Jacksonville has that September Super Bowl win over the Patriots to their credit. Looks like they've forgotten they've still got the rest of the season to play.

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 Patriots.com 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.

Related Content

Advertising