FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- In the aftermath of the worst home defeat in Bill Belichick's 21-year tenure as New England Patriots coach this past Sunday, longtime captain Devin McCourty said he was embarrassed. Everyone, he said, was now playing for their jobs.
How did it get so bad so fast?
Following a promising 2-1 start, things have fallen off a cliff for the Patriots in losses to the Kansas City Chiefs, Denver Broncos and San Francisco 49ers, which has them in a vulnerable position leading into Sunday's game (1 p.m. ET, CBS) at the Buffalo Bills (5-2).
"They're first in the division, we're 2-4, so I definitely won't call us the team to beat this year," McCourty said. "We've really got to bring our A-game coming off three straight losses. Our backs are against the wall."
This is the first time the Patriots enter a divisional game in Week 8 or later without at least a share of first place in the division since Week 12 of the 2008 season. According to Elias Sports Bureau, that snaps the longest such streak (41 straight games) since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger.
A disruption from several positive COVID-19 tests -- headlined by quarterback Cam Newton -- certainly hasn't helped. But similar situations haven't stopped other teams around the NFL, such as the Tennessee Titans (5-1), from persevering and showing the type of resolve the Patriots have traditionally been known for under Belichick.
The past three games have produced historically bad lowlights, as noted by ESPN's Stats & Information:
Newton's total QBR of 3.5 in Sunday's loss was the worst single-game QBR by a Patriots starting quarterback since the metric was introduced in 2006. That accounts for 257 games in that span, including playoffs.
Newton has the lowest Total QBR in the NFL since Week 3 (15.5) and his completion percentage on throws 10-plus yards downfield (46%) over that span is way down from his first two games (77%).
Newton is the third former MVP in the past 30 years with three or more interceptions and fewer than 100 passing yards in a game.
The Patriots have 11 turnovers in their three-game losing streak.
The last time they had three straight games scoring 12 points or fewer was 1995 (final week of the season) and 1996 (first two games of the season). The last time they had three straight games scoring 12 points or fewer in a single season was 1993 (Weeks 8-10).
Overall, they have thrown three touchdown passes (fewest in the NFL) and 11 interceptions (most in the NFL) this season. According to Elias, the last time the Patriots had the fewest touchdown passes and most interceptions thrown this late in the season was 1972.
The three-game losing skid puts them multiple games under .500 for the first time since 2001, when they were 1-3 through their first four games.
They lost back-to-back home games for the first time since 2008.
"Obviously we haven't been on the right track the past few weeks," said veteran running back James White, one of the team's captains.
"But we know we're capable of being a good offense. We want to get back to that."
"It's frustrating," added fellow captain and starting center David Andrews. "We've got to do a better job of executing all around and just find a way to win. It doesn't have to be pretty. We've just got to find a way to win."