Frustration mounting as Pats fall to .500

Patriots QB Tom Brady talks with Seattle's Russell Wilson after Sunday's game. (REUTERS)

Patriots QB Tom Brady talks with Seattle's Russell Wilson after Sunday's game. (REUTERS)

MIKE ZEISBERGER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:10 AM ET

Pity the poor flight attendants who had to serve the surly New England Patriots on their cross-continent flight from Seattle to Boston on Sunday night.

Indeed, the mood on that six-hour trip had to be a combination of disappointment, bitterness and internal cries of “What in the name of The Hoody is going on?!”

It’s a question the entire NFL is asking.

When the Patriots finally get over their jet lag and look at the standings on Monday, they will find themselves in a four-way deadlock in the AFC East standings at 3-3, thanks to a gut-wrenching 24-23 loss to the 4-2 Seahawks on the left coast.

Given that this team has Bill Belichick as its coach, Tom Brady as its quarterback and stars on the both sides of the ball like Wes Welker and Vince Wilfork, there is no way they should be at .500 right now.

There is no way they should have the same record as the Buffalo Bills, a team they lit up for 45 points in the second half of a 52-28 victory earlier this season.

There is no way a team guided by Brady should have the same record as the Miami Dolphins, a team guided by a rookie quarterback, Ryan Tannehill.

And there is no way they should have the same record as the rival New York Jets, who have lost their best defender (Darrelle Revis) and wideout (Santonio Holmes) for the season.

There is no way these things should happen because, well, frankly, Belichick normally doesn’t allow these things to happen.

But this Patriots team, fielding one of the best rosters in the NFL, is showing some unfamiliar cracks in its foundation. And it is beginning to take its toll on the players, judging by their comments to reporters after the loss.

“It’s frustrating. We’ve got to do a better job when it counts,” Brady said.

“I’m not going to lie and say I’m not frustrated because I am. We didn’t make enough plays.” Wilfork said.

“We’re just not executing when it counts in these close games. It’s frustrating,” Welker said.

The common theme: Wall-to-wall frustration. From the star quarterback to anonymous long snapper, the feeling is mutual.

Future Hall of Famer as he might be, Brady is on the mark when he says he must shoulder part of responsibility. He was flagged twice for intentional grounding, threw a pair of interceptions and could not lead his team his team to the winning points after getting the ball at his own 20 with 1:14 remaining.

That is so, well, unBrady-like, isn’t it?

Remember when the Patriots used make a living by gutting opponents with late-game drives engineered by Brady? In all three of their Super Bowl victories, the winning points came in the fourth quarter off the boot of clutch kicker Adam Vinatieri.

But now the Patriots are losing some of the close contests they regularly used to win. Their three losses this season have come by a combined total of four points.

During a shocking home defeat to Arizona earlier this season, Danny Woodhead’s winning touchdown was wiped out by a flag. Moments later, kicker Stephen Gostkowski missed a field goal attempt, sealing the devesating loss.

Missed field goals? Penalties at crunch time? The Patriots don’t usually beat themselves like that.

They are this season.

The Achilles heel remains the secondary, a unit that was torched for 293 yards and three touchdowns by first-year Seahawk Russell Wilson.

So much for the theory that Belichick doesn’t lose to rookie quarterbacks.

Up 23-10 with 7:31 remaining, the Patriots allowed 14 consecutive points to Wilson.

Not Dave Krieg. Not Jim Zorn. Russell Wilson.

That can’t sit well with The Hoody.

Nor can the fact that his defensive backfield somehow allowed Sidney Rice to get past them for the winning 46-yard touchdown with just 78 seconds left.

Any coach will tell you that letting a receiver get behind you in the final two minutes when you have a lead is a no-no.

The Patriots did exactly that.

Next week the Pats host the rival Jets. Maybe they will kick Rex Ryan’s butt and all will be right in the Patriots world again.

Then again, given how inconsistent these guys have uncommonly been this season, you never know.

EXTRA POINTS

Give Wilson credit. Two weeks ago, there were rumblings that he might lose his starting job in Seattle to Matt Flynn. Now, after wins over Carolina and New England, that talk has disappeared ... Count the Raiders’ Dennis Allen among those coaches whose attempt to ice the opposing kicker late in a game blew up in his face. In this case, Atlanta’s Matt Bryant missed his last-second 55-yard attempt to break a 20-20 tie only to find out Allen had called a time out just before the snap. Sure enough, Bryant hit his next try to give the Falcons the win.

 

LIONS SEASON SAVED?

Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson may have saved the season for the Detroit Lions.

While that might be a bold statement to make after just six weeks of the NFL campaign, both players understand that very few teams rebound from a 1-4 start to make the playoffs.

That’s why their dramatic come-from-behind 26-23 overtime victory over the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday could be the turning point for the Lions, who rekindled their post-season aspirations by upping their record to 2-3.

Through the first 35 minutes of the game, Stafford had completed just six passes while Megatron had just one reception. But Stafford turned things around to lead the Lions to 17 points in the final 10 minutes, setting the stage for Jason Hanson’s winning 45-yard field goal in overtime.

Johnson finished with 138 receiving yards.

“It takes lot of heart,” Stafford told reporters in Philadelphia afterwards. “It would have been a lot easier to just pack it in.

“This team has lot of fight. We didn’t play great. We did on defence, not on offence. Every guy in that locker room didn’t stop playing and that’s what got us the win.”

And, in the process, possibly saved their season.

PIOLI’S DEAL A CHIEF CONCERN

From a logical standpoint, why would Kansas City Chiefs management want to offer general manager Scott Pioli a contract extension?

After all, his underachieving team is 1-5 and has been humiliated on multiple instances this season, including Sunday’s 38-10 spanking at the hands of the 2-3 Buccaneers in Tampa.

Earlier in the day, CBS suggested the Chiefs had offered Pioli a two-year extension, a report that the Kansas City Star later insisted was erroneous.

Either way, why would you want to reward such mediocrity?

Through six regular season games, the Chiefs have been outscored 183-104. They are surrendering an average of 30.5 points per game.

Keep in mind that it was Pioli who brought in Matt Cassel several years ago to be the quarterbacking saviour of the franchise. In the eyes of most Chiefs fans, Cassel has been more zero than hero.

Cassel could not be blamed for Sunday’s loss. He still is suffering the effects of a concussion and didn’t even dress, leaving Brady Quinn to run the show.

Chiefs supporters had been calling for Quinn to be the starter. Be careful what you wish for. Quinn was hardly the answer to the Chiefs woes, throwing a pair of picks and zero touchdowns.

The Kansas City defence, meanwhile, was shredded for 328 yards and three scores by Bucs QB Josh Freeman.

FALCONS’ OTHER MATT’S A HERO TOO

When it comes to the Atlanta Falcons perfect start, Matt Bryant’s toe deserves as much credit as Matt Ryan’s arm.

For the second time in three weeks, Bryant booted the winning points in the game’s dying seconds, this time a 55-yarder that gave the 6-0 Falcons a dramatic 23-20 victory over the Oakland Raiders in Atlanta on Sunday.

Back in Week 4, Bryant beat the Panthers 30-28 on a 40-yard field goal with 5 seconds left.

“He knows how to get himself prepared, how to calm himself down, how to get it through those pipes,” Ryan told reporters afterward, referring to Bryant. “He’s made a lot of clutch kicks for us through the years.”

It was the longest field goal Bryant had kicked since joining the Falcons in 2009.

As for Ryan, the pick of many observers as the NFL’s MVP through the first five weeks of the season, the Falcons quarterback showed some warts in his game by tossing three picks. He did have a TD pass to Roddy White and was helped out by a swarming Atlanta defence that chipped in with a 73-yard pick six by cornerback Asante Samuel.

The heartbreaking defeat dropped the Raiders to 1-4.

ANYONE DOUBTING RG3 NOW?

Anyone still wonder if Robert Griffin III has rebounded from his concussion last week?

The 4-2 Minnesota Vikings certainly think so after watching RG3 turn in a one-man show in Washington on Sunday, throwing for 182 yards and running for 138 more en route to leading his 3-3 Redskins to a 38-26 victory.

Griffin sealed the deal when he scrambled for a 78-yard touchdown late in the game, a run in which he went right through the end zone and into the first row of stands in a gesture ’Skins fans are calling “The Landover Leap.”

“I took off running, got to the sideline and thought about running out of bounds — because everyone’s been telling me that lately,” RG3 told reporters in Washington afterward. “(But) I felt like I had the guy outflanked and I just took off running.

“The rest is history.”

So were the Vikings.

RG3’s performance continues to be one of the best feel-good stories of the season.

After being concussed in a home loss to the Falcons last week, RG3 told anyone who would listen all week that he would be ready to go. Was he ever.

BUCS STAND BY TROUBLED TALIB

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are ignoring calls from fans and media alike to cut ties with troubled defensive back Aqib Talib.

Instead, Bucs coach Greg Schiano told reporters in Tampa that the team will welcome back Talib after he serves his four game suspension for taking a banned substance.

“When Aqib’s suspension is up I really believe he will work hard and be ready then we will go from there,” Schiano said after watching his Bucs inflict a 38-10 beatdown on the hapless Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday afternoon.

Talib was suspended four games for violating the league’s policy on performance enhancing substances after taking Adderall without a subscription or waiver.

Talib, who sat out the matchup versus the Chiefs, will also miss games against the New Orleans Saints, Minnesota Vikings and Oakland Raiders. He is eligible to return to the field on November 11 when the Bucs meet the San Diego Chargers.


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