By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — NFL teams don’t like playing on Thursday Night Football, and nobody in the league even tries to keep that a secret. There’s simply not enough time to recover from the previous week’s game or prepare for the Thursday game, and the end result can be a pain in the neck that most players and coaches would rather not deal with every year.
And with a Week 5 meeting with the Colts looming this Thursday, the Patriots are currently in the midst of facing that challenge. But, just like with many matters, perhaps the Patriots are the exception.
While the same time crunch has applied to the Patriots on these Thursday night TV extravaganzas, the team has fared quite well when playing on Thursdays during the Bill Belichick era. Extraordinarily well, in fact.
Since the league kicked up its Thursday night scheduling in 2006, the Patriots are 7-1. They haven’t lost on a Thursday since the Matt Cassel-led squad lost to Brett Favre and the Jets in overtime back in 2008. Since then, the Patriots have dominated, winning seven straight games by an average margin of victory of 18 points.
That record, though, does include a Thanksgiving afternoon game played in 2010, and it also includes the 2008 game, when only select teams were chosen to play on Thursday nights late in the season.
If you look strictly at the Patriots during this new era of Thursday Night Football, the one in which every team must suit up on a Thursday once ever year, then the Patriots have been perfect.
2017: W 19-14 at Tampa Bay
2016: W 27-0 vs. Houston
2015: W 36-7 vs Miami
2014: W 27-25 vs. New York Jets
2013: W 13-10 vs. New York Jets
2012: W 49-19 at New York Jets
(Excluded from this record are the season-opening Thursday night games, as those games don’t come on a short week and thus eliminate many of the issues that players have with the mid-week games. The Patriots are 3-1 in those Thursday night openers under Belichick.)
While the infamous 2012 Butt Fumble Game did take place on Thanksgiving, it was a prime-time game, and it was the Patriots’ lone Thursday night game in the first season of all teams playing on Thursday. So it belongs in this record.
That’s a perfect 6-0 record. Average score: Patriots 29, Opponent 13. The results have been the same, but the processes have all changed drastically. Last year, the 2-2 Patriots eked out a road win without the services of Rob Gronkowski. A year prior, Jacoby Brissett and LeGarrette Blount provided all the offense necessary, as the New England defense recorded is first shutout in four years. In 2015, Ryan Tannehill was bad and Tom Brady great. (Remember Dan Campbell?) The 2014 Patriots had to stop a two-point conversion and then block a field goal to squeak out a two-point win over the Jets. The 2013 Patriots had to deal with a gaggle of drops from the Aaron Dobson-Kenbrell Thompkins duo. And the 2012 team benefited from Mark Sanchez sprinting into the keister of his offensive lineman.
The methods varied, yet what those games all had in common was that the final scoreboard declared the Patriots to be winners. That’s given the Patriots some important victories, and it’s provided the team with the benefit of enjoying the famed “mini-bye” instead of ruminating over a painful loss.
For a team that’s been the most prepared, well-coached team in the league for nearly 20 years, that should not necessarily come as a surprise. But it might explain why some of the complaints coming out of Foxboro during this short week are not nearly as loud as they might be in other NFL cities.