Pats deal with 1st opening-day loss in 11 years

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) The offensive line couldn’t protect Tom Brady.

The defensive line couldn’t stop Knowshon Moreno.

The bottom line: The New England Patriots’ streak of winning season openers is over at 10 games.

So it must have felt strange when they returned to work Monday with an 0-1 record for the first time since 2003.

”It feels strange after every game we lose,” safety Devin McCourty said. ”I haven’t lost many games here, so every time we do lose it’s a different feeling.”

McCourty was 51-13 in his four full seasons with the Patriots, plus 4-4 in the postseason. That’s just 17 losses and a few close calls.

One came last season when the Patriots won their opener at Buffalo, 23-21, on Stephen Gostkowski’s 35-yard field goal with 5 seconds left.

Their last season-opening loss came 11 years ago, 31-0, also at the Bills’ home. But the Patriots lost only one game the rest of the way and won the Super Bowl that season.

”There’s no panic. (We) watch the film, correct what we need to correct and try to move on,” McCourty said. ”First game of the season, we can’t make that affect the rest of the season. We’ve still got a lot of football to be played. We’ve got to keep improving.”

There’s plenty to improve upon after the Patriots blew a 20-10 halftime lead in a horrible second half in which they were outscored 23-0 and outgained 222-67.

Brady completed 29 of 56 passes for 249 yards and one touchdown. Even worse, he was sacked four times.

”It starts with the quarterback to distribute the ball to the receivers,” tight end Tim Wright said, ”and without the protection, that can’t happen. But, at the end of the day, we’re all accountable for protection.”

The trade of six-time Pro Bowl left guard Logan Mankins to Tampa Bay on Aug. 26 cost the Patriots their best offensive lineman.

Fourth-year pro Marcus Cannon started at left guard, the first time he played that position in the pros. For 10 of the Patriots’ 13 possessions, Dan Connolly played center, and Jordan Devey started at right guard after spending all last season on the practice squad. For the other three series, Connolly moved to right guard and Ryan Wendell played center.

Right tackle Nate Solder said the shake-up might have affected the line’s play.

”You don’t try to drive yourself mad with what could have, should have happened with the whole deal,” he said, ”but you do have to take some things and improve on them. So that’s the way we analyze the film.”

Coach Bill Belichick said he had planned to use all his linemen and did.

”We didn’t really have a lot of communication issues,” he said. ”We just had some fundamental and technique … breakdowns.”

The same was true on defense where the Patriots gave up 191 yards rushing, 134 by Moreno.

And next Sunday the Patriots must try to stop Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson one week after the Vikings routed the St. Louis Rams 34-6.

”There’s some technique things we’ll fix, but it comes down to fundamentals,” McCourty said, ”being up there, defeating blockers and tackling guys and that’s what it’s about (to stop) the run.”

The Dolphins are used to playing in the hot Miami weather. The Patriots didn’t use that as an excuse for the two fumbles they lost, the inaccurate passes Brady threw, or the punt they had blocked on their first series.

”We were playing the Dolphins. We weren’t playing the heat,” special teams captain Matthew Slater said. ”The Dolphins beat us. It wasn’t the heat.”

The Patriots were picked by nearly everyone to win the weak AFC East for the 11th time in 12 years. There’s still a very long way to go and the Patriots have one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. But right now they trail Miami, Buffalo and the New York Jets, all opening-game winners.

”I know we’ve had a lot of success here in the past, but it’s tough,” Slater said. ”It’s tough winning in this league … a lot of good players and coaches on the other side of the ball. So we’ve just got to focus on us this week and try and improve.”

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