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Logical reaction isn't easy

Posted by Eric Wilbur, Boston.com Staff  September 17, 2012 11:17 AM

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The logical reaction, of course, would be to point to the 2001 loss to the Jets, the last time the New England Patriots dropped a home opener before Sunday’s mind-numbing debacle against the Arizona Cardinals.

That season turned out OK, no?

There’s always the benchmark 31-0 drubbing at the hands of Drew Bledsoe and the Buffalo Bills to recall at the start of the 2003 season, a game that was palindromed in the season finale, as the Pats went on to win their second Super Bowl crown.

Rationale would be prudent in this situation, lest we begin foolishly blabbering about the Patriots “hate their coach” with 14 regular season games to play.

But…holy bleep what was that at Gillette on Sunday?

It wasn’t just that the Patriots were lifeless against a Cardinals team that may just be much better than anyone gave credit, nor was it merely a byproduct of bemoaning the loss of tight end Aaron Hernandez, who could be out weeks with an ankle sprain. The offensive game plan the Patriots displayed yesterday was something out of a National Lampoon farce, both hysterical and confounding, yet it somehow still paid off in the end.

Of course, Stephen Gostkowski did his best impression of Billy Cundiff to seal his team’s fate, but he never should have been in that situation to begin with. To say the Patriots gambled away their chances is obvious, but the fact that Gostkowski’s coaches were content with forcing him to kick a 42-yard field goal instead of taking on a more aggressive approach toward the end of the game is a baffling debate we’ll have for days. Unfortunately, those days lead into Sunday’s contest at Baltimore, a team that lost by a point to Philadelphia yesterday, and one that lost its last game in Foxborough in a similar fashion to the way New England gagged on Sunday.

End of the Patriots as we know them? Let’s not get carried away.

Still, this is not the juggernaut people seriously discussed going 19-0 over the summer. It just isn’t. If the first two weeks of the NFL has taught us anything, it’s that the league is getting younger with fresh faces like Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III leading the pack. So, too are the Patriots, the youngest team Bill Belichick has ever assembled. Is a certain level of immaturity starting to show?

The mistakes and execution failures were glaring, to the point where Rob Gronkowski plays the role of the goat despite hauling in the only touchdown of the day for his team. The games that defined this franchise for the better part of a decade, the grinding, heart-stopping late comebacks, are the games this team typically loses now. That’s a problem that likely speaks to some parts execution, some parts poor game-planning. If you’re keeping track, the Patriots are now 3-2 in the latest Josh McDaniels era, and a field goal blunder away from being 2-3.

Maybe that’s unfair to point out, but for an offense that looked DOA for much of the afternoon, seems intent on forcing Julian Edelman into the offense in lieu of Wes Welker, and made its share of mistakes, it’s probably going to be a story line that bears noting. Mix in the absence of Hernandez, and you have to wonder if the approach is suiting the talented personnel.

If McDaniels is pushing Brandon Lloyd and Edelman on Tom Brady for some level of confidence he doesn’t have in Welker, then he’s refusing to occupy the offense at its most explosive nature. Brady can’t find Welker if he’s not on the field, and the Patriots did themselves no favors in quieting that situation yesterday.

But logic preaches patience, and knee-jerk reactions are often illogical.

Nobody is saying that this team is in for desperate measures. But sometimes, you are who you are.

Look forward to meeting this team whenever it shows up.

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About the Author

Eric Wilbur is a Boston.com sports columnist who is still in awe of what Dana Kiecker pulled off that one time in Toronto. He lives in the Boston area with his wife and three children. Comments and suggestions for the best Buffalo wing spots are encouraged.

Contact Eric Wilbur by e-mail or follow him on Twitter.

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