New England Patriots

By Matt McCarthy, 985TheSportsHub.com

Make no mistake about it: the Patriots ugly loss to the Titans on Sunday was a reality check.

By their lofty standards, the Patriots are not very good.

Search your feelings, Pats fans, you know it to be true.

They were outplayed from the first kick of the game. They were shut down on offense and couldn’t make a stop on defense. The Titans bullied them in the trenches, the Titans out-coached them, and the Titans even out-tricked them for good measure.

And then they quit. The Patriots quit. Patriots teams never quit.

But this Patriots team did, if you can even call them a Patriots team. They certainly don’t look like one.

Losing to inferior teams is an unavoidable part of life in the NFL, and even the Patriots have not been immune to bad losses over the years. But rarely have Tom Brady and Bill Belichick been absolutely steamrolled by an inferior team the way they were on Sunday, especially this late in the year.

Sunday didn’t feel like the Kansas City loss in 2014. It felt like the loss to New Orleans in 2009, except that Saints team was far better than this Titans team.

“I just can’t get this team to play the way we need to play,” Belichick famously said of that 2009 team on the sidelines in the Big Easy.

This year feels eerily similar. Nothing looks right.

Nov 11, 2018; Nashville, TN: Tennessee Titans wide receiver Corey Davis catches a touchdown pass against New England Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore during the first half at Nissan Stadium. (Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports)

Nov 11, 2018; Nashville, TN: Tennessee Titans wide receiver Corey Davis catches a touchdown pass against New England Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore during the first half at Nissan Stadium. (Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports)

Offensively, this doesn’t look like a Tom Brady-led unit.

Brady doesn’t look like Brady. His completion percentage is down, his passer rating is down, and he’s on pace to throw more interceptions than he has in a decade.

The Patriots aren’t good enough to win the Super Bowl without TB-12 playing at a MVP-level. He hasn’t sniffed that type of play this year.

Go ahead and say it: he looks like he’s aging.

Defensively, the Patriots once again made a bad offense look like world-beaters. Marcus Mariota tore the Pats apart. He joined the likes of Matt Stafford, Blake Bortles, and Nick Foles on the list of mediocre quarterbacks that have ripped the Pats to shreds in the last nine months.

Which lousy quarterback will the Patriots make look like Dan Marino next? Ryan Tannehill? Matt Barkley? Josh McCown?

Eventually, you just have to admit that the Patriots lack the talent on defense to stop the worst offenses the NFL has to offer.

Outside of Stephon Gilmore and Dont’a Hightower, Belichick hasn’t invested enough on the defensive side of the ball. Instead, he’s invested heavily on special teams, a phase of the game The Hoodie has always valued more than just about anyone else

How’s that working out?

Sunday was the latest putrid performance by this team on special teams. They gave up another big kick return, this time on the first play of the game. The tone was set and the Pats never recovered.

Have you ever seen a Belichick team struggle so much with kick coverage?

Their performance on the road is disturbing. They have lost to the last-place Jaguars (3-6), the last-place Lions (3-6), and a Titans team they embarrassed just 10 months ago in the playoffs. They didn’t play well in Chicago or Buffalo, either.

After the bye, they play three out of four on the road. Why should we believe they will look any better the next three times with what we’ve seen from the first five road games this year?

We’re learning that the Patriots just aren’t good enough to win away from Foxboro.

By their standards, maybe they are just not very good in general.

You can hear Matt McCarthy on various 98.5 The Sports Hub programs. Follow him on Twitter @MattMcCarthy985.