Shutdown Corner - NFL

The New England Patriots have lost two straight regular-season games for the first time since November 5-12, 2006, and let's just say that reaction to this relative debaclization hasn't been overwhelmingly positive. First, Bill Belichick -- perhaps channeling his inner Mangini -- sent four players home for being late to an 8:00 AM meeting despite winter conditions. Linebacker Adailus Thomas was one of those players, and he voiced his displeasure publicly -- not something you usually see from this era's Patriots. Then, former linebacker Tedy Bruschi(notes) pointed out on his must-read weekly game breakdown his belief that the Jets and Dolphins are playing better than the Pats now. Then, a pretty chilling quote from Tom Brady(notes) about his team's on-field performance: "Sometimes we fight, sometimes we don't fight very hard." Yikes.

Now, the news that Thomas, who was also a healthy scratch against the Tennessee Titans in Week 6 and is often subbed out in pass-rush situations, will ride the bench against the Panthers on Sunday. The 32-year old Thomas has lost a step and is frequently blocked out in edge-rushing situations, and that's one of many problems currently plaguing a New England defense that hoped to see improvement from last year after replacing several veteran starters. It hasn't happened, and you have to wonder how much of the benching is about getting the best players on the field and how much is about sending yet more messages to a team that seems to be tuning Belichick out to any degree for the first time in years. We certainly haven't heard anything about Derrick Burgess(notes), Gary Guyton(notes), or Randy Moss(notes) (the other three who were sent home) riding the pine.

Belichick performed a major housecleaning when he took the job before the 2000 season, but it must be unsettling for the Pats' faithful to see cracks in the foundation. Previous down seasons had to do more with talent replacement and the time it takes -- the current team seems to have as much of a problem with synergy and commitment. Signed by the Patriots before the 2007 season because the team valued his versatility, Thomas has disappointed overall, and there are those who believe that he's seen his last season in Foxboro. Given the way things are right now, I'm starting to wonder if he's seen his last game there.

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