Home warriors no longer: Pats lose second of season at Gillette

Home warriors no longer: Pats lose second of season at Gillette

FOXBORO -- This was supposed to be the cushy part of the Patriots schedule.

After playing three of their first four games at home and falling on Sunday to the Panthers, 33-30, the Patriots are 2-2. Uncharacteristically for them, both losses have come at Gillette Stadium, where the Patriots have traditionally been dominant with Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. 

As they look ahead, the Patriots will play their next two games on the road (at Tampa Bay and at the Jets). They play seven of their next 10 away from home (including one against the Raiders that's scheduled to take place in Mexico City), meaning that if they're going to find their way, it's going to take place at some unfamiliar venues.


"We just haven’t done a good job at home," Brady said after the game. "At the end of the day, I mean, it’s not really where you play. It’s how you play, and road, home, night, day, one o’clock, four o’clock. It’s really how you play. We just haven’t done a great job putting together four quarters of football."

Brady's done just about all he can. The team may be 1-3 if not for Brady's clutch last-minute drive that resulted in a touchdown to Brandin Cooks to beat the Texans in Week 3. 

The Patriots quarterback has 1,399 yards passing through the first four games and is on pace for an NFL record 5,596 yards. His 10 touchdowns puts him on pace for 40. He's the first player in NFL history to pass for at least 1,000 yards with 10 touchdowns and no picks through four games twice in his career (2015). 

He's been as good as ever.

The secondary, on the other hand, has plenty of room for improvement. They took the blame for how things turned out on Sunday, as Cam Newton threw for 316 yards, completing 22-of-29 passes with three touchdowns and one pick. The Panthers completed five pass plays of 20 yards or more.

That it happened at home made an already ugly day even more worrisome.

"It's concerning. Never want to lose games at home," Duron Harmon said. "It's already hard enough to win games on the road, and we've dropped two at home. We just gotta play better. Gotta be more focused. We gotta go. Already a quarter through the season, four games. And right now we're just up and down, up and down. Inconsistent. In all areas on defense. Just gotta be better."

Just how good have the Patriots been in Foxboro? Brady came into the season with a career mark of 101-16 at home in the regular season. Since the start of the 2009 season, the Patriots have lost just five regular season games at home with Brady playing start-to-finish. (They lost the regular-season finale to the Bills in 2014 in a game that didn't impact playoff seeding.) The last time they lost twice in the regular season at home with Brady at quarterback was in 2012, when they fell to the Cardinals and then the 49ers.

Patriots defenders know that Brady continues to play well enough to win at home, and they know they have to hold up their end of the bargain if the results in Foxboro -- or anywhere else -- are going to improve.

"We've been putting our offense in a shootout every week," Devin McCourty said. "It's almost like they have to get seven or three points on a drive so I'm sure they must be frustrated with our defense."


'Leprechaun' Gronk dropping more hints about future plans - sort of

'Leprechaun' Gronk dropping more hints about future plans - sort of

Rob Gronkowski, decked out in his finest St. Patrick's Day duds over the weekend in Nashville, reportedly tried to shed some light on his NFL future.

Of course, while Gronk was doing Gronk things, he told a Patriots fan one thing and a reporter another.

Breech is an NFL writer for His father is former Cincinnati Bengals kicker Jim Breech. And the "69ers" aren't a real team.


AFC East is starting to prepare for post-Brady life

AFC East is starting to prepare for post-Brady life

The Patriots' "direction" never really changes. They're always "going for it" because they're always one of the best teams in the league. 

The rest of the AFC East is usually in flux. The other teams range from hoping for 8-8 to trying to bottom out in hopes of a high draft pick. Yet right now, it seems the stars are aligning and that the Jets, Bills and Dolphins all have the mindset: Change things now and be ready to pounce once Brady is gone. 

The Jets traded up to No. 3 on Saturday, assuring themselves a chance at one of this draft's top quarterbacks. The Bills, with picks Nos. 12 and 22, are expected by pundits to make a similar move up. The Dolphins, fresh off cutting bait with Ndamukong Suh in an attempt at a culture change, have the 11th pick and could use it on a quarterback to either push or replace Ryan Tannehill. 

None of the three teams are close to pushing the Patriots as long as Brady's around, even with the Bills coming off a season in which they reached the playoffs. Yet there's a two-or-three-year plan on which all three teams could have designs: Get the quarterback now, build around him and be in a good situation by the time Brady is done. 

We've seen these teams try to rebuild before during the Brady Era, with only limited success. Mark Sanchez worked out better in New York than anyone could have initially expected, but that success lasted way shorter than any believers could have hoped. Now, it seems they try again. 

Over in Buffalo, the end of the Tyrod Taylor era hardly means the beginning of the Nathan Peterman era. Those two first-rounders should easily be able to get the Bills into the top five, and they've also got two second-rounders and two third-rounders. Hell, they have the pieces to get to No. 1 if Cleveland is bold enough to pass on their choice of Darnold/Rosen/Allen/Mayfield. 

The Dolphins are in the more interesting spot. Tannehill missed all of last season and he's 29. If you're six years into your career and your team still isn't totally sure if you can be one of the better QBs in the league, you probably aren't one of the better QBs in the league. At the very least, Lamar Jackson should be there at No. 11. They could also trade up. 

At the start of last season, the Patriots had far and away the two best QBs in the AFC East. Now, it stands to reason that at least two of their divisional opponents (the Jets and Bills) will come away with what they hope are franchise quarterbacks. And if any of these guys hit, the Pats will have gone from the best QB situation in the NFL to seeing some actual competition waiting for them by the time their own quarterback is done. 

Of course, all three of these teams usually suck at everything, so it shouldn't be a big deal.