The Patriots won't be playing playoff football in January for the first time since 2008.
New England's NFL record streak of 11 consecutive postseason appearances ended Sunday in a Week 15 loss to the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium. The Patriots failed to find the end zone for the second straight game and gave up 244 yards on the ground in a 22-12 defeat.
It was a remarkable run for the Patriots. They won three Super Bowl titles in five appearances over that 11-year span. They also won the AFC East title in each of those seasons.
This historic success was going to end at some point, but it didn't have to be this season. On the latest episode of the Patriots Talk Podcast, our insiders Tom E. Curran and Phil Perry take a look at whether a few more roster moves could have put the team in a better position to be competitive in 2020.
"I think there were a few moves that could've been made along the way this offseason that would've put them in better position -- not to sustain what they had, but to be better than what we've seen, which is a non-existent pass game," Perry said. "Cam Newton cracked 200 passing yards on Sunday for the first time since Week 11 against the Texans."
What could the Patriots have done differently this year to be in the mix for a playoff spot?
"I think you could have tried to figure out your salary cap a little bit better so you could've been in the mix to sign Marcus Mariota, Jameis Winston. Say it's one of those two guys, to make it simple. We know who Winston is in terms of being a turnover machine, and we know what Mariota is with his injury history. I would find it hard to believe that you'd be much worse off -- and I know what the offensive weapons situation is -- but it's hard not to watch Cam throw the football and say, 'There's nobody out there who could run a competent passing game a little more efficiently?' Maybe not."
The Patriots' lack of success in 2020 doesn't mean an era of consistently disappointing results is forthcoming. Perry made the point that Belichick and the Patriots are capable of learning from their mistakes and applying that knowledge to future moves.
"If you're a Patriots fan, I think you can find some hope in that Bill Belichick has, over the course of two decades, shown a willingness to embrace his own mistakes, acknowledge those mistakes and try to correct them," Perry explained. "Whether it's 2006 and you go from your best receiver being Reche Caldwell and Jabar Gaffney to 2007 and what they had that season. Or even if it's just minor moves, like releasing Duke Dawson before his second season or parting ways with Cyrus Jones early, or cutting ties with Mohamed Sanu after giving up a second-round pick for the guy the year before.
"They know when things aren't working. They can acknowledge those, and do their best to remedy those things. The issue this year is those things are pretty big things -- quarterback and wide receiver. I wouldn't be shocked if, given all the cap space and a higher draft pick than they're used to having this year, if they didn't find a way to really hammer those two positions and at least be better set up to have a better offense than they had this year."
It's going to be a very important offseason for the Patriots given all of their roster weaknesses. Fortunately for Belichick, he has a lot of 2021 draft picks and salary cap space at his disposal to fix the team.
Also in this episode: Curran and Perry talk about reality setting in for the Patriots, Newton's future in New England, how Stephon Gilmore's injury impacts his future, and much more!