New England Patriots put 20-year streak on the line Sunday against Pittsburgh Steelers

Foxborough, Mass. – Quick-hit thoughts and notes around the New England Patriots and the NFL:

1. 20 Year Streak in Risk: The last time the Patriots started a season losing their first two games was 2001, which is the longest active NFL streak without starting a 0–2 season.

He’s in line on Sundays when the team tours the Pittsburgh Steelers (CBS, 1 p.m. ET). Some, such as former Patriots linebacker Rob Ninkovich, have called it a “must-win” game, considering New England face the Baltimore Ravens in Week 3 and the Green Bay Packers in Week 4.

Current players aren’t going that far, but admit they can’t afford to dig themselves a hole too deep.

“We’ve done much-needed work all week, and I think we understand the position we’ve put ourselves in,” said longtime captain Matthew Slater. “The last thing we want to do is come out and play a game like we did last week [in a 20-7 loss to the Miami Dolphins],

In a remarkable NFL-wide storyline, the three teams with the longest streak of avoiding 0-2 starts are in danger of collapse on Sunday: the Patriots (20 years), the Green Bay Packers (15) and the Dallas Cowboys (11).

The Packers host the Chicago Bears, while the Cowboys — starting quarterback Dak Prescott without injury — welcome the Cincinnati Bengals.

The Patriots players displayed some degree of calmness and confidence as the practice week ended.

“The energy is great,” Devon Godchaux told ESPN.com, starting the defensive tackle. “It’s a week. It’s a marathon. Every sport counts, but the big ones are in November and December. It’s not that we don’t want to win early, because you always want to take care of business, but it’s a long one.” weather is.

“We have a chance to come back against a great Pittsburgh team. We’ll be ready to play.”

Godchoux’s point is well taken. However, the only way for games in November and December to be worthwhile is if the team stays put in September and October.

And if the Patriots slip into Pittsburgh on Sunday, they will have to contend with some challenging recent history. Since the NFL expanded to a 14-team playoff format in 2020, no team that started the season 0-2 has qualified for the playoffs. Since 1990, only 11.3% of teams that started 0–2 advanced after the season.

Of course, the Patriots famously achieved the feat in 2001 when they won their first Super Bowl championship.

2. Strange Scenes: Patriots first-round pick Cole Strange didn’t have to look far to see a challenger against Pittsburgh on Sunday. In the Steelers’ first defensive game of the season-opening win against the Bengals, 12-year-old veteran defensive lineman Cameron Hayward overtook rookie Bengals guard Cordell Wolson to register a sack.

The Hayward-Strange matchup will be crucial to keeping quarterback Mack Jones out of harm’s way.

“I have studied him a lot and I will continue to study him. He has a really good ox,” Strange said Friday between bites of a sushi roll with salmon, avocado, and cucumber.

“But I think there’s a point where you don’t want to put yourself out there. He wears his pants like everyone else. I think it’s most important that I’m doing the right thing. It’s making sure That I’m in a strong position, with good leverage, not getting too much. It takes care of my point of view than worrying about who I’m going up against.”

3. Floors Factor: Former Patriots assistant coach Brian Flores is in his first season with the Steelers as a senior defensive assistant/linebackers coach, and his presence has been noted in New England. Flores was 4-2 against the Patriots as head coach of Miami from 2019 to 2021, and his aggression with pressure on the QB is well documented.

“I think BFlo is doing a great job of blending into that defensive unit,” said Patriots offensive line coach/playcolor Matt Patricia. “Obviously, Teryl Austin did a great coordinating job, but there’s definitely some influence there.”

4. Catching Up With Trent: Starting Patriots left tackle Trent Brown clarified things in a locker room chat, saying he didn’t speak to reporters after the loss at the start of the season as he was rushing to leave with his family before boarding the team buses . And while some may have taken his short Monday video conference as a sign that he is not happy, he said that is not the case. He told me he was proud to be assigned to protect Jones’ blind side, and that he was committed to doing a better job. “Why don’t I want to play left tackle?” He asked.

5. Gunner’s Reunion: Former Patriots All-Pro punt returner Gunner Olszewski, now with the Steelers, didn’t go the cliche route when asked what it would be like to face his old team. “Whenever you play the former, you want to show up,” he said.

The Patriots players are eager to see him and stop him.

“There is no one in this league who appreciates what he can do more than me,” said New England special teams captain Slater. “I love his story, his journey, where he is now. He is in the upper echelon of returners in this league. What sets them apart is their mindset. He has no fear there. He’s going to be aggressive. His football IQ is through the roof. We think we understand how we need to play him. It’s going to take all 11 players on the field to lock in. ,

6. Welker’s Icon: According to Elias, Welker’s 249 receptions in his first 35 games with the Patriots (2007–08) is the most in NFL history for any player in his first 35 games with a team. Stephen Diggs could top the Buffalo Bills’ home game against the Tennessee Titans on Monday night with 12 catches – his 35th game with Buffalo. Sure, Titans coach Mike Wrabel won’t be game-planning with the intention of preserving Welker’s record, but whatever he cooks up to slow Diggs will help his former Patriots teammate stay on top. can go a long way towards helping.

7. Slater’s Tour of the Steelers: When Slater was a free agent in 2018, he visited the Steelers. It was the only free-agent trip in his 15-year NFL career, spent entirely with the Patriots. “That was a unique time in my career. I never imagined myself playing anywhere else, but in this league things happen that are unexpected,” Slater said. “I grew up really disliking him because he beat my dad [Jackie Slater] in a Super Bowl, but I have the utmost respect for him and Mike Tomlin.”

Tomlin on Little Slater: “A great special teams player. I used to say ‘the legend of this generation.’ I no longer include ‘of this generation.'”

8. Emergency Snapper: Belichick once said, “Unless you need insurance, you don’t need insurance.” The line came to mind when looking at the Steelers’ early win over the Bengals in the 23-20 season, which probably wouldn’t have happened if Cincinnati long-snapper had not lost Clark Harris with a right biceps injury. That emergency snapper Mitchell Wilcox thrust into action, and his high, slow snaps contributed to a blocked extra point (which would have won the game in no time) and a missed 29-yard field goal in overtime (that would have also won). Play). For the Patriots, defensive lineman Dietrich Wise Jr. and linebacker Mack Wilson Sr. have served as emergency snappers at training camp.

9. Value of Cardona: Joe Cardona has handled the Patriots’ snapper duties in every game since he was selected in the fifth round of the 2015 draft, giving the club an ideal fixture. Chargers’ Josh Harris is the NFL’s highest-paid long-snapper (averaging $1.4 million per year), while Cardona is in the final season of a four-year deal, averaging $1.07 million per season. When a player like Harris of the Bengals is kicked out of the game, and it inevitably costs the team a win, it highlights the often-overlooked value of the position – and, closer to home, Cardona New England. How important is the .

10. Did you know: The snap-hold-kick operation for field goals typically unfolds in 1.2 to 1.4 seconds. Anything slower is considered a greater risk for a potential block, and anything faster is more susceptible to crash.

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