Patriots

Was Patriots' overtime loss to Packers a 'moral victory'?

Patriots
Bailey Zappe Damien Harris

The outcome of Sunday's game between the New England Patriots and the Green Bay Packers is in the eye of the beholder.

The scoreboard says the Patriots lost 27-24 in overtime, falling to 1-3 on the season and dropping to last place in the AFC East for the first time since 2000. But you could make the case that New England greatly exceeded expectations Sunday, forcing overtime despite entering Lambeau Field as 9.5-point underdogs and playing most of the game with third-string quarterback Bailey Zappe under center.

So, does this one deserve the controversial "moral victory" label?

Pats-Packers takeaways: Zappe's upset bid falls short in OT loss

While moral victories were nonexistent in New England during the Tom Brady era, Patriots Insider Tom E. Curran explained why it's OK for fans to feel good about a loss in Week 4 of the 2022 season.

"In this instance, for this team, in this situation, absolutely this is a moral victory," Curran said on Patriots Postgame Live. "And for all of the people that are going to push back right now and say, 'That's beneath us! We don't accept moral victories!', this is a franchise that has been built on moral victories that later propelled them to greater things down the road."

Former NFL linebacker Ted Johnson was with the Patriots for a few of those moral victories during the late 1990s and early 2000s, before New England launched its 21st-century dynasty. Johnson recalled two defeats in particular -- a 1996 loss to the Dallas Cowboys and a 2001 loss to the St. Louis Rams -- that qualified as "moral victories" and helped propel the Patriots to the Super Bowl in both instances.

 

The 2022 Patriots are nowhere near Super Bowl contenders, but Johnson thought they showed resolve while playing without key starters Mac Jones, Jakobi Meyers, Jalen Mills and Lawrence Guy and watching quarterback Brian Hoyer go down in the first quarter.

Patriots Talk: Aftermath: Moral victory? You betcha! | Listen & Subscribe | Watch on YouTube

"I just think it was a gutsy performance by the Patriots," Johnson said. "I thought they came to play, and although the defense couldn't hold it together quite at the end, I thought the defensive performance for most of this game was pretty damn good, and I thought the offense ran the ball as good as you're going to see an offense run, so there are some things to build on from this game."

The Patriots racked up 167 rushing yards on 5.1 yards per carry and forced two Packers turnovers, limiting Aaron Rodgers to just 44 passing yards in the first half before he found his stride down the stretch. For former Patriots quarterback Matt Cassel, the final score was evidence of a team trending in the right direction, even if New England was on the losing side.

"It speaks to the leadership, the coaching staff, the adjustments that they had to make in order to make this game as close as it was," Cassel added.

It's hard for Patriots fans to feel good about a loss, especially the team's second in a row. But if you're looking for silver linings, Sunday's game was a lot closer than many expected.

Watch the video above to hear more from Curran, Johnson and Cassel.