Way Too Early to Panic About Pats

New England might be 3-3 but they'll be fine

Ah, yes, it's that time of the NFL season. The Patriots lose a couple games, Tom Brady doesn't look very Tom Brady-like, and fans and media start pounding the panic button like a lab rat looking for a food pellet.

And every year, without fail, the Pats bounce back and Brady returns to his usual dominating self. When people talk about needlessly wasting energy on things you can't control this should be at the top of the list.

So even though New England currently sits at 3-3 and in a four-way tie for first (or last) in the AFC East, and they're coming off a tough loss in Seattle to a good Seahawks, team, there's nothing to worry about. It's Week 7, there's 10 games to go, the Pats' schedule is pretty easy the rest of the way and, oh yeah, they have Brady and Bill Belichick. It could be worse.

No matter, ESPNBoston.com's Jeremy Lundblad wonders if "Brady has lost his magic?"

The Patriots are the first team with three losses by two points or fewer in their first six games since the 1960 Dallas Texans of the AFL.

With 10 games still to play, New England has already matched the franchise record for losses by less than a field goal in a season (1981).

In all three losses, Brady had the ball in his hands with less than three minutes to go and the chance to either seal the victory or produce a comeback.

It was under these circumstances that Brady emerged as an elite quarterback.

In Brady's first seven seasons as starter, the Patriots went an NFL-best 39-10 in games decided by seven points or fewer.

Hardly seems like a reason to be concerned. Partly because we had this exact same conversation after the Pats stumbled in back-to-back losses to the Steelers and Giants a season ago -- only to win 10 straight and appear in another Super Bowl -- but also because of some research by Football Outsiders that basically boils down to this: a mark of a good team isn't losing close games to other good teams -- that's more dependent on luck than skill. It's blowing out lesser opponents, which is what good teams do.

The Pats beat the Titans by 21, the Bills by 24 and the Broncos by 10. That's much more telling than losing three games by two points or fewer. We're not sure how this isn't obvious.

Lundblad concludes with this: "Brady might be the best quarterback in the NFL, but he's no longer the most clutch. Gone missing are the days when Brady just needed the ball and a little clock to work with. That aura of inevitable winning has disappeared in close games. Do the Patriots need to blow teams out in order to defeat them?"

If Stephen Gostkowski doesn't miss a last-second field goal against the Cardinals the Pats are 4-2. If Belichick decides to kick a field goal at the end of the first half of the Seattle game instead of going for it, New England very well could be 5-1. The point: the losses are less a reflection of Brady than bad luck.

The rest of the schedule looks like this: Jets, Rams, Bills, Colts, Jets, Dolphins, Texans, 49ers, Jaguars and Dolphins. It's reasonable to think that the Pats could be easily be 11-5, atop the division and headed to the playoffs. Like almost every other year.

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