By: Ian Logue
It’s tough to call any game a “must win” at this point in the season, but after Sunday’s loss to the New York Giants, that’s exactly what the New England Patriots are facing this weekend.
Sunday’s last second loss to the Giants stunned fans and media alike, with the aftermath bringing even more doubt and uncertainty than we heard following their loss to the Steelers just a week earlier.
Fans have questioned everything from Bill Belichick’s coaching and personnel decisions, to the play of Tom Brady over the past week. They’re grasping at anything, trying to make sense of what has gone wrong after such high expectations coming off of a lockout ridden offseason.
As the frustration continues to boil over, we’ve even heard from many more who are already pondering the changes that will occur with this roster once the 2011 campaign comes to an end.
And the worst part is, it’s only November.
Now here they are, losers of two in a row heading into a stadium where they haven’t won since Rex Ryan took over as head coach three seasons ago. It’s been a place where Brady has struggled against Ryan’s bunch, having mustered a combined 23 points in their previous two meetings down there. During that span he’s completed 43-of-83 attempts for 464 yards, 2 touchdowns and 2 interceptions.
In the last two regular season meetings at Gillette Stadium, it’s been a completely different story. New England has put up 75 points, 45 of which came during a Monday night football beatdown last December in their second regular season meeting. In both of those games he’s combined for 45-of-62 passing for 647 yards, along with 5 touchdowns and just one interception.
Tom Brady has struggled down in New York in their recent meetings. (FILE:Icon/SMI)
Whatever it is that’s stymied them down in New York in recent years, this would definitely be a great time to fix it. New England currently sits at 5-3 on the season, and this game basically holds some important implications from a Division standpoint. The Patriots are currently tied with New York in both their regular season record and division wins, with both clubs currently 2-1 in the AFC East. New England’s only division loss came against Buffalo in Week 3, and that came on the road against what proved to be a tough Bills team.
As we know in order to have success, teams need to be able to win on the road. That’s something Brady admitted on Monday during his weekly interview with WEEI, and he expects Sunday’s match-up against the Jets to be a tough one.
“It’s the same players, and it’s the same scheme,” said Brady, who hasn’t won in New York since 2007. “They’re a good team. They always play us tough. They play us tough at home. But these are the ones that we’ve got to go out and we’ve got to win. We’ve got to win tough games on the road against good teams. You’re not going to be a good team in the NFL if you can’t win on the road.”
“Like I said, they’ve got the same players, they had the same players now for a few years, pretty much. And the same scheme every year since Rex has been there. It’s a tough place to play. But we’ve got to go down and try to play an error-free game, and see if we can go out there and get a big win on the road.”
The last time they met earlier this season was back on October 9th in Foxborough, with New England coming away with a 30-21 win. During that game Brady missed on just nine passes, completing 24-of-33 on the afternoon. His only real miscue came at the end of the first half on an interception in the endzone on a ball that Aaron Hernandez should have come away with. Instead it went off his hands and into the arms of Darrelle Revis, and ended up being the first red zone interception Brady had ever thrown at home.
Fortunately after that they were able to put up 20 more points, including 14 in the third quarter which helped seal the victory.
This time around they’re back in Rex’s house where we’ve had to watch some pretty agonizing games in recent years. Brady said after Sunday’s loss to the Giants that he’ll find out a lot about what his team is really made of this week, especially considering the way the last two weeks have gone.
“We’ve lost two straight and we’re going on the road against a damn good team,” said Brady. “It doesn’t get any tougher than that – on a Sunday night stage where you’re the only team playing. We’re going to see what our team is all about. We’re going to see the level of commitment that we have.”
In all likelihood they’ve heard the chatter and the buzz circulating throughout New England. They’ve probably heard they’re not good enough or talented enough to compete for a championship. Patriots cornerback Kyle Arrington certainly must have heard something after Sunday’s loss, because he logged onto Twitter and told fans who were venting after the game, “Don’t hop back on the bandwagon later #fakefans”.
Needless to say it’s already been a tough couple of weeks. Three in a row would definitely be ugly to say the least, and Brady’s now looking for his teammates to all dig deep as they attempt to end the skid, and get things moving in the right direction down in New York on Sunday night.
“That’s what it takes,” said Brady. “We don’t have any quitters on our team. That’s not the character of this team. Nor do we have guys that aren’t mentally tough or are going to make excuses. We’re just going to go out there and try to work harder and prepare harder and ultimately try to do a better job.”
One can only hope. After all, with eight games to go there’s still plenty of time to get things turned around. A huge win on the road would be just the thing to quiet the naysayers, and hopefully get this team back on track heading into the second half of the season.