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The New England Patriots are in trouble now.
The team that won the offseason championship by spending more money in free agency than anyone in NFL history have a 1-2 record after three weeks, following a 28-13 loss to the New Orleans Saints on Sunday.
It was the Patriots’ second home loss in as many outings at Gillette Stadium this season.
And, here’s the kicker: The Patriots host the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers at home next week. That game will mark Tom Brady’s return to New England for the first time since he left to go enjoy much more sun and success in Florida.
The team Brady left behind, meanwhile, is in meltdown mode.
If the Patriots lose that Brady reunion game, for which they will obviously be the underdog, it would mark their third loss of the season and equal their worst start to a season in 20 years. The 1-3 start would tie the team’s 2001 season start — when Brady first took the field in Foxborough, MA.
Even last year when the Patriots didn’t have Brady as their starting quarterback for the first time since 2001 and struggled to a 7-9 record, they got off a better start than this year. They were 2-1 after three games.
During the Brady era, the Patriots had seven seasons in which they had three or fewer losses in the entire season.
It should be noted the 2001 Patriots got off to a 1-3 start but the first two losses came with Drew Bledsoe at quarterback and the team eventually corrected course and won the Super Bowl once Brady got in the lineup.
Except Brady isn’t walking through that locker room door this year.
This year the Patriots are counting on rookie Mac Jones to show himself as the team’s quarterback of the future.
They’re still waiting because he’s not been that so far.
Jones had previously been merely solid. But Sunday was his worst outing of the season.
He completed 30 of 51 for 270 yards. But he threw a season-high three interceptions, including the pick that ended the game.
Jones missed a possible TD pass to Nelson Agholor in the third quarter when the receiver got open on a flag patter and Jones threw as if he was running a post route.
This year the Patriots are as much beating themselves as losing to opponents. In their season-opening loss to the Miami Dolphins, Patriots running back Damien Harris fumbled inside the Miami 10-yard with six minutes to play.
The Patriots lost that game 17-16.
On Sunday the Patriots had the interceptions, made dumb mistakes like kicking the ball out of bounds after a score, and gave up a game-defining fourth-quarter drive that drove a dagger in their chances of winning.
The Patriots had closed the score to 21-13 with nine manageable minutes to play in the game.
But New Orleans, primarily using the running talents of Alvin Kamara and reserve quarterback Taysom Hill running out of shotgun formation, embarked on a methodical 13-play, 75-yard touchdown drive that took 6:45 off the clock and made this an insurmountable two-score game.
The Patriots are in trouble.