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Hurley: The Patriots are still who we've thought they were

Devin McCourty says Patriots need "reset" after loss to Bills
Devin McCourty says Patriots need "reset" after loss to Bills 01:53

BOSTON -- I don't know too many people who thought the Patriots were going to beat the Bills on Thursday night. And I don't know anyone who came away from that game thinking much in the way of positivity regarding New England's football team.

It wasn't a drubbing, per se. The Patriots led at the end of the first quarter. They trailed by 10 at halftime. They were driving at the end of the game to make the score look borderline respectable.

But all of that was just window dressing. The Bills were never distressed in this game. The Bills never lost control of this game. The Bills never had to fret for a moment in this game.

The Bills showed that they're still the class of the AFC, a conference where it's the Chiefs and the Bills and then everyone else. 

And the Patriots showed that they're still what they've been for basically the whole year.

One of the worst third-down offenses in the league, the Patriots were 3-for-12 on third down on Thursday.

One of the worst red-zone offenses in the league, the Patriots failed to reach the end zone in their lone red-zone trip on Thursday, once again moving backward and out of the red zone instead of forward into the end zone.

One of the weaker offenses in the NFL, the Patriots had just two drives that traveled more than 31 yards all night. They punted six times -- including once from midfield in the fourth quarter while trailing by 17 points.

That punt might have been an indication that even the Patriots don't have much belief in the Patriots. Not against the Bills, at least.

Which is to say ... not a whole lot has changed since last year.

The Patriots, of course, were able to win in the middle of a tornado in Orchard Park, with Mother Nature leveling the playing field. But on even footing, it was no contest for Buffalo. The Bills won 33-21 in Foxboro, then won 47-17 in Buffalo in the playoffs.

A 24-10 final -- one that required the Bills to punt three times -- might technically represent some progress. But what good does that really do?

Barring a hurricane or a blizzard, the Patriots aren't good enough to beat the Bills. They don't appear capable of being actually competitive with the Bills. And Buffalo's 5-1 record vs. their former bully since Tom Brady left town drives that point home rather clearly.

New England was good enough to reach the postseason last year, but they weren't good enough to be much more than that.

Now? Now they're just good enough to be ... good enough. They're 6-6. They're "in the race." They'll remain there for the foreseeable future, if they're able to beat some beatable teams over the next couple of weeks.

But until or if the Patriots prove that they can actually go toe to toe with the real iron of the AFC, it all feels like a case of a team spinning its wheels, making little or no progress where it's needed most. 

Being good enough to be good enough isn't actually good enough for much.

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