The 2020 New England Patriots are bad. As Bill would say, "it is what it is." That's really all there is to it.

After Sunday's latest tease I'm sure a few analysts and fans alike will try to make the claim they played the division-leading Buffalo Bills tough and had a chance to win the game late. That they did, but it should not be viewed as a source of inspiration. These Patriots are not a good team and if a 4th-straight loss has taught us anything, it's that they can't get the job done.

Let's review the excuses to this point:

- Week 4 loss @ Kansas City: the team was quarterbacked by Brian Hoyer. It was a disaster offensively but Bill Belichick held Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs' offense at bay. The team showed their guile and guts after traveling the morning of the game and proved they could compete against the league's best even when shorthanded.

- Week 6 loss vs. Denver: following more COVID-19 interruptions, the team was only able to hold one padded practice in two weeks leading up to the game.

- Week 7 loss vs. San Francisco: the game itself was inexcusable, but this was rock bottom and at least Bill would likely get the team to bounce back. A gritty win at Buffalo followed by a victory over the lifeless Jets and boom, we're right back in it.

It went from infuriating to unimaginable to demoralizing over the course of the last three weeks and arrived at the point this afternoon that when Cam Newton coughed up the ball with 30 seconds left, there was no angst. I expected the Bills to win the game. What should have been, and in year's past would have been, a case of the Sunday blues that would've been difficult to shake, this latest loss barely fazed me.

And what about today? What's the excuse now, that the game was there for the taking? Please, spare me. It's time to acknowledge this team is going nowhere fast and it may be time to consider that deplorable "T"-word - tanking.

It pains me as much as the next staunch Pats fan to suggest, but it's better to be grounded in reality than hopelessly believe this squad will turn it around because of the masterful resume of the head coach. And speaking of ol' Bill, even he's deviated from his no excuses mantra, attempting to say the team has been handcuffed this season by salary cap restraints which have carried over from prior years.

He'd never admit it, but Belichick knows how putrid this team is. It shone through when, after tying the game 14-14 in the third quarter and stealing the momentum, he inexplicably (and desperately, might I add) decided to attempt an onside kick. It was the latest in a long list of very un-Belichickian calls the head coach has made this year.

Belichick said after the game that Newton remains the team's QB, as it's been all year, and that may prove to be Bill's next poor call. There's no point in leaving Newton in there to guide a team bereft of talent to a 6-10 or 7-9 record, (both of which may be generous given the current form). It's time to insert Jarrett Stidham and see what the kid's got. From what he's showed to this point, it's not much. But hey, if he lights the world on fire, you have your QB of the future. Conversely, if he combusts and continues throwing picks at a Nathan Peterman-esque rate, the Pats will have a high pick in next  year's draft to find the heir apparent to the Tom Brady era.

These are not the Patriots you knew and loved. This is different. It's unfamiliar and uncomfortable. But if played correctly the misery will be short-lived. It's time to look to the future, and the only way to do that is to stop making excuses for each passing week.




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