Curran: Patriots Fans Are “In Denial”

Patriots fans think the world of Bill Belichick, Tom Curran says, but New England will be "overmatched offensively and defensively" to begin the season

Tiki and Tierney
September 02, 2020 - 5:30 pm
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The New England Patriots have won six Super Bowl titles under Bill Belichick. They’ve also won the AFC East in 16 of the last 17 seasons, including 11 straight.

After losing Tom Brady to free agency, however, it appears the Patriots’ dynasty could be over.

How are Pats fans dealing with this right now? What is their mindset heading into 2020?

“They’re in denial,” NBC Sports Boston Patriots insider Tom Curran said on Tiki & Tierney. “They’re in denial right now. There is a lot of, ’In Bill we trust.’ There’s a lot of, ‘Belichick will figure it out.’ There’s a lot of, ‘Hey, they still got that great defense.’ And I think there is a great denial that what happened at the end of last season when they finished 4-5 down the stretch and got steamrolled in the playoffs didn’t actually happen to them – and it did.”

Indeed, the Patriots started 8-0 last year but went 4-4 in the second half of the season and were one-and-done in the playoffs.

“They went 12-4, but [they saw] a collection of really bad quarterbacks,” Curran said. “They got to 8-0 against the collection of really bad quarterbacks, and they did it with a lot of special teams work and a lot of defense with institutional knowledge that overwhelmed [opponents]. That institutional knowledge doesn’t return.”

Indeed, aside from losing Brady, eight Patriots have opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19.

“They lost their entire linebacker room,” Curran said. “That was the heartbeat of the defense – [Dont’a] Hightower, [Kyle] Van Noy, [Jamie] Collins, Elandon Roberts. Now they have rookies coming back, so there’s no institutional knowledge there. [Patrick] Chung and [Devin] McCourty are terrific corners, and [Stephon] Gilmore and Jason McCourty and J.C. Jackson are talented. . .  [but] it’s not going to be the same result, I don’t think, defensively that you saw [last year].”

The defense isn’t the Patriots’ only question mark. It remains to be seen how the offense will fare with Cam Newton, who was limited to just two games last season.

Newton, for the record, will be New England’s starter entering the season.

“Yup, it took probably three or four days to become clear,” Curran said. “They did go into camp intending to have a competition, there’s no lie to that. They opened it up, [Jarrett] Stidham hurt his hip after about four days, and then all the reps went to Cam. 

“If Cam isn’t the starter, this is legendary coaching malpractice,” Curran quipped, “because Cam’s getting way too many reps [if he’s the backup].”

Add it all up, and Curran sees the Patriots struggling, relatively speaking, this season.

“I think [8-8 is] the perfect spot to start,” he said. “This is going to be one of those teams that has to improve as the year goes on. They might look really ugly early. They might be able to outsmart teams early. . . . I still think they’re going to be overmatched offensively and defensively for a little bit until the light goes on. But they could win some close ones early before they figure it out.”