NEW YORK (AP) Yes, the NFL tends to mess with your mind. So here’s something football fans haven’t seen in a long time: New England alone at the bottom of the AFC East standings.
Don’t count on it lasting much longer.
To say the Patriots have owned the division for a dozen or so years is to undervalue the achievements by Tom Brady and company.
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They have crushed the Dolphins, Jets and Bills pretty much since Brady stepped behind center early in the 2001 season. A season that concluded with the first of three Super Bowl titles in four years, incidentally.
With the exception of struggling in its trips to Miami (6-7 in games Brady has played, including Sunday’s defeat), New England has been in another galaxy from the rest of the East.
It is 16-9 overall against the Dolphins since 2001 – excluding 2007, when Brady was injured – 17-6 vs. the Jets (plus 1-1 in the playoffs), and an almost unfathomable 22-2 against Buffalo.
While it’s unwise to overreact to anything other than key injuries that occur in Week 1, that’s particularly true in the case of the Patriots. What’s a bit unsettling is that Brady sounded a lot like a panicky fan after the 33-20 loss.
”You can’t play the way we played today and think we’ll win a game this season,” he said. ”There’s nothing that’s positive to really take from it. The things that we were doing, I think this is a good way and a good example of if we do the things that we did today, you’ll get beat.”
True. But also true is how effective the Patriots are at fixing their ills. Bill Belichick isn’t the longest-tenured coach in the NFL because of his fashion sense or his chattiness.
Although the Patriots have been at the center of some troubling issues away from the field – Aaron Hernandez’s murder case and the videotaping scandal that drew huge fines in 2007 – their performance between the sidelines generally has been impeccable.
Concentrating on how they have not won a Super Bowl since the 2004 season also ignores the fact they have gone to two more since then, including an unbeaten regular season before losing to the Giants in early 2008.
Since beating the Eagles for that third crown, New England has gone 110-34 in the regular season – including 11-5 in 2008 behind Matt Cassel, a record not good enough to make the postseason. They won the AFC East in all but 2008.
They also are 9-8 in the playoffs in that span, which doesn’t sound so great. But how many franchises wouldn’t take playing in 17 postseason games over the past nine seasons?
Still, there are issues to deal with quickly. Even though the division doesn’t look too strong, the 1-0 Bills did win at supposedly improved Chicago; the 1-0 Jets looked good after a slow start against Oakland; and the 1-0 Dolphins excelled in the second half.
Meanwhile, the Patriots have that big fat zero in the win column.
The Patriots’ biggest problems Sunday were on the offensive line that couldn’t protect Brady, who was dumped four times. Trading their best blocker, left guard Logan Mankins, to Tampa Bay on Aug. 26, seemed odd at the time. Now, at least for one week, it appears unwise.
And unfair to Brady. Last year, he had to go through a lengthy adjustment period with his receivers, one that never really ended, except for with Julian Edelman. Now, he’s working behind a jumbled offensive line.
New England also was run over by Knowshon Moreno, who did the same thing to it while with the Broncos last year. The defensive line is healthier now than for most of 2013, so what happened there?
Perhaps the heat got to the Patriots, too. But it was just as hot for the Dolphins and that should not be a factor in the opener.
The last time the Patriots were 0-1 was 2003, when they got routed at Buffalo, 31-0. They’d just traded safety Lawyer Milloy to the Bills, so there’s a similarity to 2014 and Mankins.
And guess what: New England won the Super Bowl that season.
For now, look at the loss to the Dolphins as a misstep.
”It’s tough,” defensive tackle and leader Vince Wilfork said. ”It’s always tough to go on the road in the division, especially down here. They always play us tough.
”First game of the season, no excuses though.”
AP Sports Writer Howard Ulman contributed to this story.
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