FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — No team is immune from hearing the frustrations of its fan base. Not even the six-time Super Bowl champion Patriots.
Philadelphia Eagles fans infamously pelted Santa Claus with snowballs while watching their two-win team trudge to the end of a dismal season.
Frustrations have reached such a point in New England that Patriots fans resorted to booing their 10-win team off the field during halftime of its 23-16 loss to the Chiefs.
Since starting 8-0, New England is 2-3 and has lost back-to-back games for the first this season.
The good news is it still sits atop the AFC East with two of its final three games against teams currently sitting at the bottom of their divisions.
But it's a small consolation for a team that left the field Sunday lamenting its ongoing issues as well as the impact of multiple questionable calls by officials.
“Obviously, it gets frustrating, but calls get made and calls don’t get made," receiver Phillip Dorsett. "I know it is a tough job on the referees, but at the end of the day, it is what it is.”
The most notable example was early in the fourth quarter with the Patriots trailing 23-13. N'Keal Harry caught a short pass from Tom Brady and appeared to stretch the ball over the pylon for a touchdown. But Harry was ruled to have stepped out of bounds at the 3-yard line. New England eventually settled for a field goal.
Coach Bill Belichick declined to say what, if any conversations he's had with the league office about the officiating Sunday.
"I would treat those as private conversations," Belichick said. “I wouldn’t try to speak for somebody else. ... I don’t believe in that.”
The Patriots used some creativity to energize their offense but still came up short in their final drive with a chance to tie or win the game. They have been plagued by season-long issues converting on third downs (2 for 12 for the game) and scoring touchdowns in the red zone (1 for 3).
For the season the Patriots rank 17th in the NFL in third-down conversion percentage (37.4%). They are also scoring on just 48% of their trips inside the 20-yard line, which ranks 27th in the league.
During his weekly appearance on WEEI radio Monday, Brady said the offense is still working to find cohesion.
“I don't think you ever feel like you're done with that. I would say for as long as you play you're always trying to be on the same page," Brady said. "Hopefully it pays off at some point.”
When the Patriots suffered a humbling 41-14 loss at Kansas City in 2014, after the game a frustrated Belichick repeatedly responded "We're on to Cincinnati" when asked to elaborate on the loss. On Monday, Brady took to Instagram and channeled his coach.
Written in capital letters over a picture of Brady wearing sunglasses and winter cap was a single quote: We're on to Cincinnati,"
The Patriots blocked their fourth punt of 2019, setting a franchise record for a season. It is the most blocks since the Eagles blocked four punts in 2014. With one more, New England will tie the 1990 Chiefs for the most punt blocks in a season in NFL history.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
Despite the return of Nick Folk to the team following his one-week absence after an emergency appendectomy, the kicking game continued to exhibit issues. Folk, who has been the Patriots' most dependable kicker since Stephen Gostkowski went on injured reserve Oct. 2, had a 41-yard field goal attempt blocked in the first quarter. He is now 8 for 11 on the season. Folk's predecessor, Mike Nugent, was 5 of 8 on field goals and 15 of 16 on extra points before being cut. Kai Forbath lasted one game after missing an extra point in New England's loss to Houston.
RB Brandon Bolden made the most of his one carry Sunday, scoring from 10 yards on a fly sweep in the third quarter. It was his third rushing touchdown of the season, matching a career high. He also had a receiving touchdown earlier in the season, giving him a career-best four TDs.
“I think Brandon is dependable for us everywhere, all four downs — first, second, third and fourth downs,” Belichick said. “Wherever we need to use him, I think we all have a lot of confidence in him.”
Second-year running back Sony Michel continued to struggle, rushing five times for 8 yards. It was his lowest output of the year and dropped his season average to 3.5 yards per attempt. He has six touchdowns, but hasn't reached the end zone in the past six games.
The Patriots went 1 for 3 on fourth down. For the season they are 5 of 12 (42%), which is tied for 21st in the league.
New England gets a gift from the schedule makers this week as the Patriots visit 1-12 Cincinnati. The Bengals have been outscored 325-198 this season. The Patriots have won six of the last seven meetings.
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