The New England Patriots are no strangers to success. Making five Super Bowl appearances since the turn of the century, they have consistently dominated the NFL. Winning three Super Bowls within four seasons, and taking the division 11 out of the last 13 years, they have been prosperous in their conquest to be the best. Yet, the Patriots are now 2-2 and their performance against the Kansas City Chiefs have fans wondering, are the Patriots still a dominating force in the NFL?
Anytime Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are involved, it is hard to count the Patriots out. Clearly the duo has experienced strong success together. Three Super Bowl rings and 11 division titles is hard to argue against. However, that was in the past. The 2014 Patriots tell a vastly different story. Perhaps the most surprising artifact about the 2014 season is that the offense is the problem. In the past it has always been the defense that caused issues for New England. The defense would bend, but thanks to Tom Brady, it would not kill them. Now, ranked 23rd in total offense and 24th in total passing yards, it is the offense that needs help.
While the offensive struggles are new to Patriots fans, they are not all that surprising for two reasons. First of all, Tom Brady does not have the same talented receiving corps that once surrounded him. Wes Welker, Brady's top target, left for Denver in costless agency. Tight end Aaron Hernandez landed in legal trouble that cost him his NFL career, and while Rob Gronkowski is still on the team, he is still coming back from injury. Brady has been able to make receivers stars in the past, but with Brady's regression, that may no longer be the case.
It is time to admit it, Tom Brady has regressed. Before you start flooding the comments with angry paragraphs and blowing up this writer's Twitter feed with hateful tweets, look at the facts. Brady has thrown four touchdowns and two interceptions this season. This time last year he had seven touchdowns. In 2012 he had seven touchdowns after four games, and in 2011 he had 13 touchdowns. Additionally, Brady has statistically shown a slight, but steady regression since 2011. Finishing his 2011 campaign with 39 touchdowns, 5,235 passing yards, an average of 8.57 yards per pass, a completion percentage of 65.6%, and a passer rating of 105.6, Brady has been in decline ever since. His 2012 season consisted of 34 touchdowns, 4,827 passing yards, an average of 7.58 yards per pass, a completion percentage of 63.0%, and a passer rating of 98.7. 2013 included 25 touchdowns, 4,343 passing yards, an average of 6.92 yards per pass, a completion percentage of 60.5%, and a passer rating of 87.3.
The differences may not be dramatic, but they do show regression, and slowly but surely Brady is slipping. Of course, at 37 years old, this drop should be no surprise. Brady will always be considered one of the best quarterbacks of all time, but that does not mean that he will be the hero forever. The proof is in the numbers, Brady has regressed.
While it is impossible to count out a football team with Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, the Patriots have neared the end of their reign. A division filled with inconsistency may allow them to grab a playoff spot, but don't expect them to last long. The NFL is no longer in the New England era.