The New England Patriots had a slow start to the 2022-23 season after falling to the Miami Dolphins 20–7. This was at least somewhat expected, but it was easy to hold out some hope to be surprised.
There is not any specific unit or player to truly blame for the loss, it was more of just a mediocre performance all around, save the fact that the defense only surrendered one touchdown to the Dolphins offense. The Dolphins were able to execute better, limit damage better and at this point in the season it is clear that Miami are the better team.
That ending fact is exactly what makes this so strange. It has been rare for the Patriots to lose a game that felt like that was the correct outcome. Take the 2021-22 season opener, for example. The Patriots lost to the Dolphins in that game too, but the killer was a fumble by Damien Harris in the end zone. It was one of the rare blemishes for the stellar tailback, but it caused a loss that really felt like it should have been a New England Patriots win.
Those losses make your blood boil. That is the feeling that Patriots fans had for pretty much every loss in the Tom Brady era, and it still overall carried during the Cam Newton year and Mac Jones’ rookie year.
What changed for the New England Patriots?
The Patriots have now had two consecutive losses that really felt like the correct team won. The other being the Bills 41–17 dismantling of the Patriots during the 2022 AFC Wild Card playoff game. That one was more understandable since it ended the season and the Bills had the better record, were playing at home and played a game that was as close to perfect as possible.
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Still, it didn’t feel great to be able to understand that loss. That is not what the fanbase is about.
The offseason that was sandwiched between these two games was pretty unpopular to say the least. The coaching decisions felt weird, as did the drastic changes to an offense that saw new players shine during the previous season. The team seemed to have unresolved issues going into the opener, and this effort validated these suspicions.
What is next for the New England Patriots?
This is not an article that is saying that the season is over. Obviously that would be a premature and insane claim to make. Remember, the Patriots started last season 1–3 and made the playoffs.
Still, it shows that losses and mediocre efforts will happen with this team. If the team doesn’t gel soon, it could happen a lot. Even if they do and make a run for the playoffs, they are not the unbeatable juggernaut that they were for years. The winning culture that the Patriots built over the past several decades is not done, but it is not as fortified as it once was.
It appears that this season could be one where you root for the New England Patriots unconditionally, without grand expectations. Seeing growth from players and coaches may be the highlight, and maybe New England will be greeted with an underdog story?
Craziest of all, maybe the team will encounter a (cringe) “good loss”.