Burke: Why this ugly stretch will help the Patriots in the NFL playoffs - Metro US

Burke: Why this ugly stretch will help the Patriots in the NFL playoffs

Tom Brady is pressured by the Eagles defense in the Patriots loss to Philly on Sunday
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The Patriots fan base has collectively moved on from “19-0” or bust to “better now than later.”

Better now that the Pats lay an egg, than in January (or, God forbid) February.

The fact of the matter is, this stuff happens in football – even to the greatest of teams. As great as the Belichick/Brady era Patriots have been over the years, there have been notable suck-fests from time-to-time.

There was the blowout loss to the Chiefs just last season. There was a mid-December hiccup in Miami against an average Dolphins team two years ago. In 2012, the Pats not only lost back-to-back games (at home vs. Arizona, at Baltimore), they also gave up 41 points to the 49ers at home – again in mid-December.

This loss to the Eagles just may have been the most surprising and embarrassing defeat in the B/B run of glory. But it’s a loss that could very well be a good thing for the Pats when things truly matter.

In the past 70 minutes or so of football, Brady has had no choice but to throw to the poison hands of Scott Chandler, Brandon LaFell, James White and Keshawn Martin. Sure, it would be nice if Brady didn’t have to rely on any of these guys come early 2016. But as is the case every postseason, the randoms have to be ready.

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Absolutely no one thought Danny Amendola was worth a damn heading into the playoffs last season. But by the time the Pats were celebrating in Arizona in the early hours of Monday, Feb. 2, Amendola was considered invaluable to the franchise moving forward.

Obviously, defenses are better in the playoffs. The Pats will undoubtedly be tested by the likes of the Bengals, Broncos, Chiefs, Steelers or Jets “D” in January. During this time, Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman are both expected to be back. But it’s a great unknown as to whether or not they’ll both be near 100 percent. Rust and risk of further injury will surely factor in (remember when Gronkowski broke his arm a second time in the playoffs against the Texans three years back?).

Let’s say for the hell of it, those guys look as good as ever. Still, defenses in the playoffs will surely prefer to make Chandler, LaFell, White and Martin beat them. One or a couple of these mid-carders are going to have to make plays if the Patriots want to even make it to Santa Clara.

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So, while painful to watch now – Brady needs to get the reps in with these guys. With all of them, he has Ochocinco and Donald Hayes-like trust. Right now, at least.

In the OT three-and-out drive against the Broncos, Brady targeted LaFell and White and came up empty. Brady threw incompletions in the directions of LaFell (twice), White and Martin in the failed final drive against the Eagles. Those incompletions are going to have to turn into completions soon, regardless of Gronkowski and Edelman returning to form.

Yup, it’s going to be a chore to watch Brady get used to these guys over the next few weeks (three losses in a row is possible … believe it).

But it’s a chore that has to be done.

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