Hannable: Enough with all the excuses, Patriots are what they are and that’s not good

Ryan Hannable
December 17, 2018 - 12:19 am

PITTSBURGH — Week 2 in Jacksonville? The Jaguars wanted revenge for last year's AFC championship loss.

Week 3 in Detroit? Matt Patricia knew all the secrets.

Week 10 in Tennessee? Several Titans had it out for their former team.

Week 14 in Miami? The Patriots always stink in South Florida.

Week 15 in Pittsburgh? There are no more excuses. It’s time to acknowledge the Patriots simply are not a good road team, and therefore aren’t as good as many still are clinging onto them being.

Despite the Steelers giving the Patriots plenty of chances to win the game, it was the Patriots who made the biggest mistakes as they fell to Pittsburgh, 17-10 Sunday afternoon. The loss drops the Patriots into the No. 3 spot in the AFC at 9-4 and if the playoffs began today, they would be forced to play on wild card weekend.

The loss also guaranteed the Patriots a 3-5 record on the road, their worst since 2009.

It’s time to admit this Patriots team just isn’t as good as some past teams and will have an extremely difficult time reaching the Super Bowl. How a team does on the road is a good indication of just how good it is. Over the last five years, of the 10 teams to reach the Super Bowl, all were 5-3 or better on the road and those teams were a combined 62-18 in away games.

“We’re in a tough spot, obviously,” special teams captain Matthew Slater said. “We put ourselves in a tough spot, but at the same time, we haven’t lost our belief in each other, and we still have a lot to play for. There’s really no time for us to feel sorry for ourselves. We need to figure it out and keep competing and keep trying to improve.”

The biggest issue Sunday was penalties. The Patriots were called for a season-high 14 penalties for 106 yards and they really showed up late in the game on offense. On their final two possessions (interception and turnover on downs), they committed 30 yards in penalties. Also, the 14 penalties were tied for the second-most in the Bill Belichick era -- only the 15 committed against the Vikings in 2014 were more.

All these penalties certainly are not what we’re used to seeing from a Belichick-coached team.

Neither are red zone struggles, which once again were on full display Sunday. The Patriots went 0-for-3 in the red zone, including not scoring a single point on their last two red zone trips. Trailing by four, Tom Brady threw an interception midway through the fourth quarter when he was trying to throw the ball away, and then there was the turnover on downs at the end of the game.

“We’ve obviously haven’t played well on the road,” Brady said. “Obviously, what we’re doing isn’t good enough. It’s a cumulative thing. We’re out here as a team trying to compete [and] when you’re on the road, you have to play well. Some things are just a little bit more challenging on the road. We have to embrace those things, and we just haven’t done a great job on that.”

Seemingly after each loss there has been a reason or two for why it occurred and continuing to remain optimistic things will change, but it’s been eight road games now and it is Week 15. Teams know what they are by now, and it’s time to acknowledge the Patriots just aren’t as good as many thought.

With that being said, in a flawed AFC they can still beat any team on a given day, but in the same breath they can also lose to any team.

Certainly, it isn’t 2009 level, but the Patriots simply are not a great team.

Related: What were Patriots doing on final few plays vs. Steelers?