Despair always seems to hover over the New England Patriots following a defeat, and the aftermath of their 25-17 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers is no different. After losing to the Steelers, it seems like the sky is falling on Patriot Nation.
After all, the offensive line struggled, the secondary was atrocious and the running game was nonexistent in Pittsburgh. But try not to fret too much, Pats fans. Not all hope is lost for your favorite football team.
There are several reasons why the Patriots can rebound from this loss. In fact, here are five of them.
The Pats just lost to the Steelers, so you can pencil them in to win next Sunday against the New York Football Giants. Why? Because the Patriots have rarely lost back-to-back games in the Bill Belichick and Tom Brady era.
In fact, the last time New England lost consecutive games was in 2009, when they dropped two straight on the road to the New Orleans Saints and Miami Dolphins. Prior to that, the last time they suffered the same fate was in 2006, when they lost two straight at Gillette Stadium to the Indianapolis Colts and New York Jets.
Why are the Pats so good at bouncing back from a loss? For one, Belichick’s teams always seem to refocus and bunker down after defeat. They already did that once this year, as they looked very impressive in a 31-19 victory over the Oakland Raiders a week after losing 34-31 to the Buffalo Bills.
But the more obvious reasons are that 1) they’re simply better than most of the teams they play in the regular season, and 2) they have that Brady guy playing quarterback.
Even rarer than the Pats losing two straight is Brady playing two straight poor games himself. After an average performance by his standards against the Steelers, look for Brady to bounce back in a big way against the Giants.
I’ll admit it; I thought Kevin Faulk was never going to play another snap in a Patriots uniform. After all, the long-time Patriot already had plenty of wear and tear on his tires and was coming off of a debilitating knee injury.
Plus, it appeared that with the emergence of rookie running back Stevan Ridley, Faulk had become expendable. Then, against Pittsburgh, Faulk made his return from a lengthy absence and went from expendable to vital.
With Ridley missing the game, Faulk played very well in his place, leading the team with 32 rushing yards (although that’s not saying much, given how the Pats couldn’t run at all on the Steelers). He also had six catches for 39 yards and showed no ill effects from his knee injury.
Not only does Faulk give New England welcomed depth at running back, he now becomes another quality weapon for Tom Brady to throw to. And it’s a much-needed weapon at that, considering how Brady has gotten virtually no production from the disappointing trio of Danny Woodhead, Chad “Ochostinko” and Taylor Price.
I guess it’s a good thing Bill Belichick saved a roster spot for Faulk, because his return was worth the wait.
Reggie Bush has been absolutely awful in his first season with the Miami Dolphins. I should know; I made the mistake of drafting him onto my fantasy football team.
All things considered, though, I also made the mistake of sitting him against the Giants. Bush played very well against Big Blue, compiling 103 rushing yards on 15 carries. And he’s not the only running back who has had success against the Giants this season.
Bills running back Fred Jackson had 121 yards on 16 carries when he faced New York. Overall, the Giants are a poor 28th against the run, surrendering 130 yards a game. This gives the Patriots’ running game the perfect opportunity to rebound after a poor outing against Pittsburgh.
In yesterday's game, the Pats registered a meager 42 rushing yards in a 25-17 loss. Despite their struggles, the Pats have the tools in place to be an effective rushing team. The team has newfound depth at that position thanks to the return of Kevin Faulk.
If promising rookie Stevan Ridley can return to the lineup this weekend, New England can get back to running—and winning—against the Giants.
Brady had quite a pedestrian game against the Steelers, going 24 of 35 for 198 yards and two touchdowns. I don’t see Brady having many more average games like that as the Patriots enter the second half of their season.
The Eagles and Jets really are the only two remaining defenses on New England’s schedule capable of keeping Brady in check—and Brady already threw for over 300 yards against the Jets once this season.
Simply put, the Steelers are one of the very few defenses in the league capable of containing Brady. And like I said before, Brady just doesn’t have poor games in consecutive outings.
With a banged-up secondary, the Giants are vulnerable facing a quarterback in Brady who will be eager to atone for his average day in the Steel City.
Although the Giants have a fearful pass rush, the Patriots still have one of the best offensive lines in the game, anchored by solid players like Logan Mankins, Brian Waters and rookie Nate Solder. If they play up to their capability against the Giants, Brady should return to his usual, dominant self.
The next four weeks won’t be very kind to the Patriots, as they have to face quality teams in the Giants, Jets, Chiefs and Eagles. If they can survive that brutal stretch, though, the remainder of their schedule shapes up to be a cakewalk.
Games 12-15 feature matchups against the Colts, Washington Redskins, Denver Broncos and Dolphins before the Pats finish the regular season with a rematch at home against the Buffalo Bills. As long as the Pats can stay relatively healthy, they’re likely going to be favored in nearly all of their remaining games, with the exception of possibly the Jets and Eagles games—two road matchups.
With so many poor opponents in December, the Pats could right the ship and generate some real momentum heading into a potential postseason appearance. You always want to play your best football at the end, and given the way the schedule pans out, it looks like the Pats could do so this year.