Sunday night and the days that have followed have proven to be a bit of an odd experience, with Patriots fans generally feeling even better about this 2020 team despite losing to the Seahawks.
It has led to discussions and debates about whether there should even be such a thing as a “good loss” or a “moral victory” for a franchise that has done nothing but win for the last 20 years.
ESPN analyst Tedy Bruschi has an interesting perspective, as he played on Patriots teams that were expected to be Super Bowl contenders and never would have been satisfied with any kind of loss, but also on teams that weren’t expected to be great and could take positives from a hard-fought loss.
“I think it depends on how you see the team,” Bruschi said Wednesday on Ordway, Merloni and Fauria. “I mean, there some teams that I was on, you’d say ‘moral victory’ and we’d kick your ass out the locker room, those type of teams. But we’re still figuring out this team. We don’t really know who they are. I think even they don’t really know who they are right now. I think what Bill always tried to do is have those three goals at the beginning of the year: fundamentally sound, smart, tough, all those things. I think he has to decide even after the first couple weeks, if it gets rough, is the team going to fight? That’s a question that he likes to answer, and I think even after that loss in Seattle, you can answer that.
“I mean, you’re down 12 with under five to go, and you still get it done. A lot had to be done in terms of special teams play, a stop on defense, a lot of conversions on the offensive side of the ball to put you in a position to win. It’s not what you’re used to around here, right? Right, because every year it’s like, this is a final four team, AFC championship, boom, we should be in the Super Bowl. I just don’t feel that way about this team, so when I see them go into Seattle -- and obviously a quarterback that’s just on fire [Russell Wilson], a good football team, they’ve got Jamal Adams’ thing going and all of that stuff -- and you take them down to the wire.”
Perhaps the most famous example of a “moral victory” during the Belichick era came in 2001. In November of that season, the Patriots visited the 7-1 -- and heavily favored -- St. Louis Rams for a Sunday night game. Although they lost 24-17 and dropped to 5-5 on the season, they played the Rams tough and were in it right until the end.
It offered hope that the Patriots could compete with the NFL’s best. Sure enough, the 2001 Patriots wouldn’t lose another game the rest of the season, and would go on to beat the Rams in a rematch in Super Bowl XXXVI.
“I remember times of when nobody expected anything out of the teams that I was on. We were 5-5, but we played the St. Louis Rams hard,” Bruschi said. “And then in the locker room, you think, ‘You know, I think we’re going to be OK. We’ve done nothing yet, but I think we’re going to be OK.’ And that’s what I’m sort of referencing, how this team could feel about themselves.”
That said, Bruschi made it clear: You only get one “moral victory” per season. Now the expectations have been raised, and there’s more feeling good about losses from here.
“No, you can only have one per season,” Bruschi said. “I’ll tell you right now. That’s the only one I’ll give them. OK? Only one I’ll give them. Because from here on out, you know you can compete. You know you can compete with the best teams in the league, on the road, doesn’t matter. You can be down 12 with under five left and you can make the plays to get things done.
So that’s all thrown out the window now.”