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Patriots struggle more than usual with mistakes in early 2021

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Analysis

Costly turnovers, like Damien Harris’ two crucial fumbles, and unusual penalties hurt the Patriots early in the 2021 season.

Houston Texans cornerback Terrance Mitchell celebrates after forcing a fumble by Damien Harris of the New England Patriots at the goal line. (AP Photo / Eric Christian Smith)

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The Patriots have long been touted as a team that knows their missions, does their jobs, and forces others to make mistakes without a fight in the process.

So far, the 2021 Patriots haven’t lived up to that bill.

While Bill Belichick’s side aren’t necessarily supposed to be 5-0 to start the season, the 2-3 start is a bit more disappointing than last year because of the way it turned out.

The Patriots’ first week loss was sealed by a fumble in the red zone from running back Damien Harris. In week 3, the Patriots looked unprepared and sloppy. Turnovers played a role in the team’s big Week 4 loss to Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

It’s not something you’re used to seeing: a Patriots team giving games.

New England’s 9 turnovers abandoned to start the season (5 interceptions, 4 lost fumbles) place them tied with the Jets for second in the league, ahead of the Kansas City Chiefs and Jacksonville Jaguars (11 giveaways) . Neither team is better than a 2-3 record.

To put that into perspective, this year’s offense is already almost halfway through the number of turnovers committed by the 2020 Patriots’ offensive unit (19), which was in the middle of the pack among NFL teams.

In 2019 – the last year under Tom Brady’s New England cross – the offense has only given up 15 times all season.

While no one would expect the Patriots’ offense to be as immediately prolific under Mac Jones as it was under Brady, New England had to at least hope for better ball safety than that.

Unfortunately, as running back coach Ivan Fears lamented on Tuesday, that’s the reputation of the Patriots right now.

In addition, the team also struggled in another key category: penalties.

New England committed 31 penalties for 272 yards in five games, allowing 11 first downs in the process, according to Pro Football Reference. A few of them, like Hunter Henry’s false start before Nick Folk’s failed field goal in the Patriots’ last practice against the Bucs, hurt their chances of winning games.

While that’s not particularly glaring when it comes to the rest of the NFL – the Patriots are tied for 10th in penalties with five other teams, and Philadelphia leads the pack with 50 penalties against them – that’s no. is not up to the team’s own standards.

Last year’s 7-9 Patriots’ team committed just 62 penalties all season. Again, the 2021 squad is already halfway to hitting that total of just over a quarter into the season. The year before, New England had taken 94 penalties over a full season.

You could certainly argue that the Patriots could be 4-1 if not for a few mistakes or costly decisions against the Miami Dolphins and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

But there’s also this saying that Bill Parcells often used to consider: “You are what your record says you are. ”

Right now, sitting at 2-3, the Patriots aren’t a great team. Unlike last year, however, the issue isn’t so much a large talent gap between New England and their opponents. Rather, it’s about the little things that have apparently never cost them a game before: mental failings, penalties and giving away football.

With 12 games to go, there is still time to correct these issues before the season gets too out of reach. And the Patriots have to do it if they have any hope of being competitive for a playoff berth this year.



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