Patriots

What this year’s Patriots have in common with dismal 1993 team

The 2021 Patriots became the franchise's first team since 1993 -- Drew Bledsoe's rookie year -- to start 0-4 at home. Are those two teams more alike than we realize?

Drew Bledsoe Patriots
Patriots quarterback Drew Bledsoe (11) and teammate Otis Smith. Boston Globe Staff
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On the surface, there’s little to truly compare between the 2021 New England Patriots and the 5-11 squad from 1993 they’ve been linked with so frequently of late.

The game is played differently now than it was then. The Patriots weren’t a dynasty with years of championship pedigree yet. This year’s team seemingly has more top-flight NFL talent than the 1993 team, which was coming off a 2-14 finish the year before and had just hired Bill Parcells as head coach.

And yet, with Sunday’s loss to the Dallas Cowboys, this year’s Patriots are the franchise’s first team to start 0-4 at home since 1993.

One could certainly argue this squad should win more than five games in a season, given the amount of money spent in free agency to revamp the team after last year’s 7-9 finish.

But there’s another interesting parallel between the two teams: the 1993 Patriots were starting a rookie quarterback that year as well.

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His name was Drew Bledsoe.

The Washington State star quarterback came to the Patriots as the first overall pick in the 1993 draft, arriving with considerably more fanfare and arm strength than No. 15 overall pick Mac Jones did this season.

Like Jones, Bledsoe earned the starting quarterback job outright from the beginning. He started 12 games that season, including the team’s first five contests, while missing a few games with a knee sprain.

And, as with the Jones-led offense this year, the 1993 Patriots struggled to score points and keep pace with more explosive offenses.

It’s important to note teams weren’t passing or scoring nearly as much in those days as they do now, so it might seem like a complete “apples and oranges” situation to compare the 1993 Patriots’ average of 14.9 points per game with the 2021 team’s current per-game average of 20.8 points.

Comparing their rankings with their contemporaries, however, might make more sense.

The 1993 Patriots ranked 22nd overall in points scored per game. The 2021 team’s rank through six games: 24th.

Both teams had solid defenses that generally kept them competitive in games, with the 1993 team ranking 11th in points allowed defensively and the 2021 squad currently at ninth in the NFL.

Their offenses also had their issues with giving away the football as well. The 1993 Patriots coughed up the football 16 times in their first six games. This year’s team has committed 11 turnovers of their own.

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Bledsoe and Jones even threw the same number of interceptions (6) in their first six NFL games, predictably going through familiar rookie struggles at the NFL level (though Bledsoe was nowhere near as accurate as Jones has been so far).

The Patriots lost three of their first four home games in ’93 by a field goal, with the fourth loss coming in overtime (sound familiar?) to the Buffalo Bills.

So while talent might not be the main factor holding this year’s Patriots team back as it ostensibly was then, the signs of a struggling yet competitive football team can be seen 18 years apart.

Now it’s entirely possible nothing about this year’s team will resemble Bledsoe and Parcells’s fledgling squad by the end of this season, of course.

For one thing, the Patriots could cleanse their palate by (in theory) stomping the Jets this weekend for their first home win. Given how the Texans game went two weeks ago, though, nothing is 100 percent assured.

Secondly, they have the talent to keep themselves in the playoff race even after a tough start with seven of their remaining 11 opponents currently sitting at .500 or below.

But regardless of how this season ends up, that 1993 example also contains a silver lining.

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That team, of course, missed the playoffs in Bledsoe’s first season. But they finished strong, winning their last four games of the season.

Then, 1994 was much better: Bledsoe started all 16 games and threw for 4,555 yards, leading the Patriots to a 10-6 record and the Wild Card round of the playoffs that year.

Perhaps some hard times in the beginning with Mac Jones at the helm will similarly lead to future success in 2022 and beyond (minus a near-fatal injury that opens the door for a replacement, of course…).

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