For the last two decades, the New England Patriots have dominated the NFL to an unprecedented degree. Thanks to the combined powers of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, they captured six Super Bowl titles in nine trips.
Yet, the 2020 season has been markedly different. With Cam Newton under center, the Patriots have struggled to move the ball consistently and put points on the scoreboard. Defensively, New England has taken a sizable step back without Dont’a Hightower, Patrick Chung, Kyle Van Noy, and Jamie Collins in the lineup.
As a result, the Patriots no longer look like the team to beat in the AFC East. In fact, unless Belichick can pull off some magic, New England will finish the year with a losing record. So when’s the last time the Patriots didn’t finish the year above .500?
The Patriots have been the model of consistency for two decades
Once Tom Brady took over as the starting quarterback for the Patriots, everything changed. The sixth-round pick out of Michigan promptly led the team to the first Super Bowl title in franchise history. He won two more rings within a three-year span, and the Patriots officially became a dynasty.
While New England failed to win another title over the next decade, it continued to pile up victories. In 2007, the Patriots came within one game of going 19-0 before Eli Manning and David Tyree put a painful end to those hopes. Manning got the best of Brady and Belichick again in the Super Bowl four years later.
Still, the Patriots made a habit of winning double-digit games, clinching the AFC East, and going on a deep playoff run. In fact, during the last decade, New England lost more than four regular-season games just once. Ironically, the Patriots won their sixth title after going 11-5 in 2018.
New England has struggled in its first season without Tom Brady
The final year of the Brady era included another dominant regular season. However, the first year without the legendary quarterback under center has not gone so well.
Due in large part to poor personnel, the Patriots have started the 2020 season with a 4-6 record. The arrival of Cam Newton has done little to fix an offense that clearly lacks playmakers at wide receiver and tight end.
Although the offense has shown flashes of ability, it has been extremely difficult for the unit to find any semblance of consistency. Through 10 games, the Patriots rank 26th in scoring. They haven’t finished outside of the top-10 since 2003.
Of course, Belichick’s poor drafting cannot be ignored. N’Keal Harry looks like a major whiff after arriving as the 32nd overall pick. Sony Michel does not appear to be a long-term building block, either. Plus, the team has gotten nothing out of the rookie tight end duo of Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene.
Defensively, the Patriots’ lack of a pass rush has allowed opposing quarterbacks to make a talented secondary look ordinary. After allowing the fewest points in the NFL in 2019, New England ranks just 13th through 10 games.
Overall, the team has major issues on both sides of the ball. And unless Josh McDaniels and Belichick figure out a way to fix the offense, it looks like the Patriots will finish with a losing season.
When was the last time the Patriots had a losing season?
If the Patriots finish the 2020 NFL season with a losing record, it will represent a massive outlier for a franchise that has been the hallmark of consistency for years.
So when was the last time the Patriots had a losing season?
You’d have to wind the clock back to 2000 when Belichick first took over as head coach.
New England went 5-11 that year with Drew Bledsoe at quarterback. The team finished 25th in scoring and 17th in points allowed. Tom Brady spent most of the season on the bench after arriving as the 199th overall pick.
Of course, the fate of the franchise changed the following season when New York Jets linebacker Mo Lewis delivered a devastating blow to Bledsoe that opened the door for Brady to become the Patriots’ starting quarterback.
And the rest, they say, is history.
All statistics courtesy of Pro Football Reference.