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O’HARA’S SCOUTING REPORT: New England Patriots

Another game – this one a 31-20 loss to the Jaguars that was far more one-sided than the score would indicate – and another week of drama and sublpots involving a mentor-pupil coaching matchup in Tales of the New England Patriots.

They are NFL royalty, with five Super Bowl championships, a head coach-quarterback tandem of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady certain to be inducted in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and a tight end in Rob Gronkowski who is one of the most dominant players of his era.

But the royals attract attention, and win or lose, drama seems to envelope the Patriots.

That is especially true in current situations, with the Patriots wallowing in the depths – for them -- of a 1-1 won-loss record as they prepare for Sunday night’s game against the winless Detroit Lions at Ford Field.

The Patriots have been far from dominant in the first two games. They were pushed to the limit in a 27-20 win over the Texans in the opener. The Texans ran for 167 yards and rallied from a 24-6 deficit midway through the third quarter to make a game of it.

It was the Jaguars who were the dominant team last week. They had leads of 14-0 and 24-3 before the Patriots scored a touchdown in the last two minutes of the third quarter. Blake Bortles passed for 377 yards and four touchdowns, and the Jaguars had a 481-302 advantage in yards gained and 27-18 in first downs.

It’s hard to draw long-term conclusions after two games about a team with the Patriots' record of 17 consecutive winning seasons and 15 playoff appearances in that period, but they have not done well in two areas that are usually a strength.

They are even in the turnover ratio, and they’ve given up 51 points – an average of 25.5 per game compared to 18.5 last season.

Belichick was asked Wednesday in a conference-call interview with the Detroit media where his team stands at this early point in the season.

“I think we’re making progress,” he said. “We have a long way to go. We have a lot of things we need to work on, a lot of things we need to improve. I think there is plenty of room for improvement for each of us involved with the team.

“We’re going to try as hard as we can to make up that ground as quickly as possible. It’s about where it usually is at this point in the season, just not at the point you like it to be at. It’s early, and there’s a long way to go. Hopefully, we can keep improving every day and every week.”

After Sunday’s loss, reports have surfaced anew of friction between Belichick and Brady. Belichick was asked how he and his team block out the white noise that seems to follow them.

Belichick’s answer on Wednesday’s conference call could be called Belichickian, for the consistency of his response in such matters. It’s as steady as reading the rain gauge in the Sahara. No change.

“Yeah ... I don’t know,” he said. “Right now, we’re trying to do our best this week to get ready for the Lions. That what we’re going to do. That what this week is about. Still got to line up.”

On the human-interest side, it’s Belichick going against his former assistant and good friend Matt Patricia, who is 0-2 with the Lions as a first-year head coach.

As both men said in separate interviews Wednesday, it’s about the game, not a personal duel.

“It’s about the Patriots and the Lions,” Belichick said. “Each of us has a part in the game, obviously. I have all the respect in the world for Matt. Mrs. Ford (Lions owner Martha Firestone Ford), who I worked for. Great people in the Lions organization.

“In the end, it’s about the two teams competing. That’s what it’s about. Hopefully, we can go out there and do a good job. That’s what we’re going to try to do.”

However, Belichick did speak highly of Patricia. He spent 14 seasons as an assistant coach, and the last six with the title of defensive coordinator.

“He started as a coaches assistant and worked his way up to defensive coordinator,” Belichick said. “He did a great job for me in all those areas. I’ve been extremely fortunate to have him on my staff all those years.

“He did a great job, an outstanding job, in many capacities.”

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