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.
PANTHERS 33, PATRIOTS 30
- Stephon Gilmore makes several crucial mistakes in loss
- Phil Perry's five quick takeaways
- Tom E. Curran's Best and Worst
- Curran: Pats' defense has gone 'from concerning to laughable'
"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."