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Better Late Than Never: Super Bowl Hero Explains How Patriots Can Improve

Former New England Patriots cornerback Jason McCourty shared his thoughts on Good Morning Football.

"Football starts after Thanksgiving."

On his latest appearance on NFL Network's Good Morning Football, former New England Patriots cornerback and former Super Bowl hero Jason McCourty emphasized the philosophy that head coach Bill Belichick shares with the team. According to McCourty, for the team to improve this season they must focus on finishing the regular season strong.

After Thanksgiving in 2021, the Patriots had a record of 3-4 including the playoffs, going 1-4 in their last five games of the year.

More problematic, the late-season collapse was not isolated to just the 2021 NFL season. From 2019 to 2021, New England has gone 2-3, 1-3, and 1-3 in the last four weeks of the regular season. Over the last three years, these collapses have all been for relatively different reasons. 

Most recently and importantly though, the collapse may not have been a collapse at all. 

In the 2021 regular season, the Patriots lost to the Miami Dolphins twice, the New Orleans Saints, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Dallas Cowboys, Indianapolis Colts, and Buffalo Bills. All of these teams are either playoff teams or playoff-caliber teams and share a combined record of 63-39 (.618), averaging a 10.5-5.5 record in a 17 game season.

In comparison, the teams that New England beat had a combined record of 63-80 (.441), averaging a 7.5-9.5 record. Omitting the team's win against the heavily injured Tennessee Titans (who will be significantly healthier in the playoffs) and the win in hurricane-like winds against the Bills, this figure drops further to 40-69 (.367), averaging a 6-11 record.

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As it turns out, the Patriots might have just run out of steam on a relatively lucky streak. In the past, we explored what the fundamental issues were with the team. The issues were as follows:

1. An Identity Crisis -- The offense never committed to its run-first identity and instead held quarterback Mac Jones in a limbo where was wasn't able to maintain the downfield aggressiveness to keep defenses on their heels.

2. Early Deficits -- Nearly every game the team lost, they were playing from behind after a sloppy first and second quarter. The team suffered immense from "Boston Celtics Syndrome" and will need to do a better job of asserting its authority on both sides of the ball.

3. Untimely Turnovers -- The team was 8-0 when winning the turnover battle and 1-6 when losing the turnover battle in 2021.

4. Sloppy Penalties -- The offensive line was especially egregious in their drive-killing holding calls. Hopefully first round offensive lineman Cole Strange will help in the team's overall pocket protection improving.

5. Poor Edge Discipline -- Defensive ends continued moving too far upfield and losing the edge.

6. Passive Decision Making --  Belichick refused to try to convert fourth downs multiple times in the season, costing the team close games down the stretch. 

At the end of the day, McCourty is right. The team will have to improve their longevity throughout the season and finish strong. However, for New England to genuinely stay consistent throughout the season, they will have to avoid the self-inflicted damage and fix the issues that continued plaguing them last season.