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Panic switch

Posted by Eric Wilbur, Boston.com Staff  September 24, 2012 11:25 AM

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When do the Celtics start?

You have to go back two decades to find the last time both the Red Sox and Patriots were under .500 through three games of the NFL season. On Sept. 27, 1992, the Patriots fell to the Buffalo Bills, 41-7 to fall to 0-3 on the year, en route to an epic 2-14 campaign that really marked the end of thle bumbling franchise as we once knew them. Enter Bill Parcells, Drew Bledsoe, and Bob Kraft, and New England sports history was made.

On the same date, Joe Hesketh got the win for the Red Sox as they defeated the Baltimore Orioles, 6-1, at Camden Yards to secure their 70th win of the season. There would be only three more as the Sox finished the year 73-89 under Butch Hobson.

We’re in a whole new world, kids. Same as it ever was.

It was a fun ride. From Loserville to City of Champions in the blink of a tuck in the snow. Prior to the Patriots’ shocking upset over the Rams in 2002, the last time Boston had won a championship was with the 1985-86 Celtics, a 16-year title-less stretch that ranked as one of the longest in this city’s professional sports history.

It’s been 15 months since the last, the Bruins’ run to the Stanley Cup last June. They may not even play this year.

All is lost for the Red Sox, and has been for months. Now the Patriots seem intent on making the doldrums linger into November, when the aged Celtics kick things off, fresh off last spring’s nauseating collapse at the hands of the Heat. They may be our last hope.

There’s only a week left in the Bobby Valentine era, so for this much we can be thankful. But these Patriots? Egad. Never has a Tom Brady-led team been more sloppy, confounding, and cheated by officials than this 2012 edition. It’s kind of like being an Orioles fan, and having no reasonable explanation for what’s happening before your eyes. Except, you know, not as good.

The Patriots already find themselves a game - a game - behind in their quest for a first round playoff bye. Houston has already seemingly wrapped up the top slot after its escape from Denver Sunday to go 3-0 on the season. Now it’s up to New England, Miami, the Jets, Buffalo, Indy, Jacksonville, Tennessee, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, San Diego, Denver, Kansas City, and Oakland to fight it out for the easier road to Round 2. Cleveland is doomed.

I mean think about it, after three weeks of football, nine AFC teams have identical 1-2 records. Nine. Is there really any coming back?

The last time the Pats were under .500, it was 2003. They were 0-1. It was Sept. 7, the day Warren Zevon passed away. Maroon 5 was yet two days away from releasing its scorn upon the music world, and nobody went to see “Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star” the weekend of its national release in theaters. New England was routed by Buffalo, 31-0, and the Bills never looked back.

I mean, they were 6-10. Why would they?

The Patriots, of course, went on to win their second Super Bowl. They won their first by starting the 2001 season 1-3.

So…maybe give them one more week?

They could be 3-0 if not for a missed field goal by Stephen Gostkowski, and a questionable one by Justin Tucker. Instead, they are 1-2 and the sky is falling over Foxborough. Those pesky, first-place Bills are next, and who knows what to expect. They’re not the Browns, but the Patriots are in the basement, looking up at the Bills and Jets in the AFC East standings.

It’s a must-win Sunday in Orchard Park. No team has ever gone 1-3 and made it to the Super Bowl.

Oh, right.

“Offensively we broke down in lot of different areas, not just one,” Belichick said. “We need to refocus and regenerate our efforts toward being a more efficient football team - not turning the ball over, not having penalties that cost us field position, not giving the other team opportunities that just make it harder for us to win. We can’t be donors. We can’t donate stuff to opponents. We’re too generous.”

“If you had told me we’d be 1-3 at the start of the season, I’d have said you were crazy,” Brady said. “I thought we would have been far better than that. But the reality is we’re not. We’re a 1-3 team.”

Not yet. But those quotes are from Oct. 7, 2001, the day the Patriots fell to the Miami Dolphins, 30-10, their third loss in four games to begin the season. They would lose once more the rest of the way.

Then, they hoisted Lombardi.

Save the panic for the potential of losing the NHL season, if Kevin Garnett can stay healthy, and whether or not a stubborn Larry Lucchino wants to keep that incapable bozo in the dugout.

Not here.

Not yet.

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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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