New England Patriots: Pats Facing Some Inconvenient Truths After Loss to Jets

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New England Patriots: Pats Facing Some Inconvenient Truths After Loss to Jets
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It's time to come to grips with some pretty unpleasant facts.

Statements that seemed inconceivable not only years ago, but days ago, are now clear, present and true after the New York Jets announced they were going to win, reminded everyone they were going to win, and then won the Divisional Playoff with the New England Patriots, 28-21.

Tom Brady lost his playoff swagger. Bill Belichick doesn't make good postseason coaching game plans and adjustments. The Patriots, for all their wins and points between September and December, don't have the heart to win against hungry teams in January.

True. True. And true again.

It sounds negative, knee-jerk and in the moment, but those points are hard, if not impossible, to refute. Tom Brady is 5-5 since winning a third Super Bowl. Two of those wins, both against San Diego, came despite bad play on his part.

More glaring than the results have been the change in Brady's play. Last year, he showed none of his trademark poise and pocket presence while getting sacked three times, fumbling once and throwing three picks against Baltimore in the wild-card round.

Yesterday, his trademark decision-making, which resulted in only four interceptions all year, evaporated on an early promising drive, as his interception on a bad play took points off of the board and reminded the Jets that he could be beaten, if they needed reminders at all.

He looked confused and lost, and his coach didn't help him. Belichick, who earlier in the decade could have taught a seminar in playoff preparation, failed to adjust to the simplest tactics the Jets threw at him. Darrelle Revis (who removed any doubt in the "best defensive player in football" argument) took Deion Branch out of the equation. That left mismatches for Wes Welker, Aaron Hernandez, Rob Gronkowski or any of the weapons that exemplified New England's versatility this season.

None were given the chance to capitalize. That's bad playcalling, bad execution and bad coaching.

In the fourth quarter, the Patriots trailed by 10 and drove with the snail's pace of a team up by 10. That's bad coaching.

Give credit to the Jets, whose zone defense derailed the Patriots offense. But a unit that scores 30-plus points on eight straight teams, most of them good, needs bad decision-making to come undone that easily.

The Patriots had everything to their advantage and, again, came up short. The panic button needs to be pressed, and pressed again. The heart isn't there. There isn't any determination by the Patriots to set the tone early, only desperation when it isn't.

The Patriots have some needs that they can address. They need a pass rusher who the opponent must account for. They need linemen who can handle a blitz scheme and protect Brady when it's most important. They need attitude and snarl, and players who go beyond carrying out their duties and nothing else.

They need heart, the sort of emotion that allows a team to punch back. The Jets have plenty of it. The Patriots don't.

The Patriots also have needs for which there aren't solutions. They need their quarterback to raise his play the way he did at the start of the decade. They need their coach to go back to being the genius with an extra week or extra game film with which to prepare. They need confidence, swagger, mojo...

I don't know what it's called. But it's not there anymore. Three straight losses, two at home. There's the proof.

The Patriots essentially have three first-round picks coming up. They'll be strong next year, most likely stronger than this year. On paper, New England will probably be a preseason favorite.

But it'll be lacking in its most important areas. Its quarterback is a shell of his confident, cocky self, and its coach has departed from his unparalleled brilliance.

You can't draft confidence. When it's gone, that's all there is to it.

Drew Bonifant is a sportswriter at the Concord Monitor. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/dbonifant.

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