By: Ian Logue/PatsFans.com
October 06, 2002

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MIAMI, FL -- It's too early to panic, but not too early for fans to at least be concerned about their team after Sunday's 26-13 loss to Miami.

Evidence of that came after the game when players in the Patriots locker room uttered the phrase "we just didn't match [the Dolphins'] intensity."

The fact it was realized in the locker room was one thing, the fact it even happened on the field was another.

How a team that was coming off of such a disappointing loss on the road last week against San Diego could have come out so flat, not to mention picking up right where they left off with penalties and turnovers, was certainly an obvious cause for concern.

They regressed in nearly every area, most notably on third down where they converted just one third down in the first half, and were just 3-of-10 for the game.  They committed three turnovers, two of which came on 3rd-and-long which was a situation they found themselves in for most of the game.  Out of the 10 third downs the team faced on Sunday, just three of them were for less than eight yards, and five of them were for 10-yards or more.

As a matter of fact, when facing 3rd-and-10 yards or more this season, the Patriots are just 2-of-21, and were 1-of-5 on Sunday with two turnovers.

Mistakes and penalties are generally the reason that team's find themselves in that situation, and despite how poorly New England played last week against San Diego, only twice last week did they find themselves facing a third down that was for 10-yards or more.

They went into the locker room at halftime just 1-of-6 on third down, and had just 3 first downs the entire half.  They also had just 26-total net yards on offense, and 10-net passing yards.

All this from a team that was supposed to be angry about losing last weekend.

They rushed the ball just 17-times on Sunday, with Antowain Smith rushing for 14-yards on 9-carries (1.6-yards per carry), and to make matters worse the Patriots stayed away from their short passing game as well as their spread offense which had made them so efficient.

Five times during the game they were inside the Miami 40-yard line.  Only twice did they come away with points, and three of those five times they turned it over.

That's not the definition of efficient.

That's the definition of a problem, one they'll need to find an answer to sooner rather than later now that suddenly the team that hadn't lost since November of last season has dropped two in a row in two straight games where they've turned the ball over three times or more.

Their road only gets more difficult from here.   The Packers, Broncos, and the Buffalo Bills are some of just a few teams who are all on deck waiting for their shot at the defending champs.  At 3-2 there is still time to turn things around, but they'll need to do it soon.

Otherwise the word "concern" will be an understatement.


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