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Dan Shaughnessy

Patriots have more questions than answers

We are positively gobsmacked in the wake of Sunday’s Patriots loss.

It could get worse for New England football fans. If the Patriots lose again Sunday night in Baltimore, they will be a sub-.500 team for the first time in 10 years. The last time the Patriots had more losses than wins was in October of 2002, when the defending Super Bowl champions fell to 3-4 on their way to a 9-7 non-playoff season.

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Ever notice how losing starts more conversations than winning? We hardly knew what to say about the Patriots when they slammed Tennessee in their textbook opener. Now we have so many questions . . . and so few answers.

What was up with the conservative play calling? The Patriots sat on the ball in that final drive. They went backward. They lost the aggression that gave them a touchdown on the previous drive.

When Bill Belichick was asked about playing it safe at the end, he answered, “We scored a touchdown; got it called back. We had a touchdown called back.’’

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Coach Bill was asked seven questions in his painful postgame news conference Sunday. His seven answers totaled 141 words. My favorite response was the last one, when he was asked if he saw any signs of players losing focus during the practice week.

“I don’t know,’’ said Belichick. “That’s what practice is for. Practice is never perfect. There are all these things to correct in practice; that’s why we practice.’’

Coach is no Allen Iverson.

Everybody wants to know what’s up with Wes Welker. Are the Patriots punishing their slot receiver? Are they trying to suppress his market value? Are they saving him for the big games in November and December? Is Julian Edelman suddenly a better player than Pro Bowl Wes? How come none of us ever knew that Edelman was such a superior downfield blocker?

There wasn’t much light shed on any of this Monday. Quarterback Tom Brady bit his tongue in his contractually obligated weekly radio appearance. Welker acknowledged that there were signs during the practice week that he might see diminished action, and that he might be a little “behind” because he missed practice time because of a death in the family. When Belichick was asked about Welker Monday, he said the receiver was not behind. Oh, and the coach said the Patriots always do what’s best for the football team.

Belichick’s highlight Monday was his answer when he was asked if Aaron Hernandez has any broken bones.

“I really don’t have any updates on his status yet,’’ said Belichick.

Wow. No X-ray machines in Foxborough?

Please. The Patriots simply are not going to tell anything they are not obligated to disclose.

Which begs the eternal question . . . why do we even bother to ask?

And yet we soldier on.

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Wonder if the Ravens will know enough to defer if they win the coin toss Sunday night? As I’ve told you a million times, New England does not want the ball to start the game. Sunday against the Cardinals marked the 31st consecutive game in which the Patriots won the toss, then deferred. The last time the Patriots won the toss and opted for the football was Sept. 7, 2008, the day Brady injured his knee against Kansas City.

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How are we feeling about Stephen Gostkowski next time he lines up for a game-winner?

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What gets settled first — the NFL dispute with its officials, or the NHL lockout? I’m betting the NFL resolves its labor problems with referees after Monday night’s Denver-Atlanta debacle. It was truly unwatchable.

The NFL likes to think it’s getting away with replacement officials, but folks in Baltimore are pretty hot about Sunday’s offensive pass interference call that took a touchdown off the board in a 1-point loss to the Eagles. It should be case closed after the Monday Night Football fiasco.

The league was embarrassed Sunday when it had to replace a replacement official, Brian Stropolo. Stropolo posted photos of himself wearing New Orleans team garb at a preseason Saints tailgate party hours before he was scheduled to work Sunday’s Saints game at Carolina. Yahoo.

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Regarding the final two weeks of the Red Sox season, we must quote Kevin Garnett and remind you that, “Anything is possible.’’

No one can predict the next wacky move by a manager who is begging to be fired. Sunday’s stunt of hitting for Jose Iglesias in the middle of an at-bat (2-and-2 count) was a new low for Bobby Valentine.

If Valentine still had any support in his clubhouse, it’s certainly gone now. Not that players could have been too happy after Bobby V said he was working with the weakest roster in the history of baseball.

The Sox are bad, but Valentine still has a former MVP (Dustin Pedroia), a former MVP runner-up (Jacoby Ellsbury), an NLCS MVP (Cody Ross), and a catcher with 24 homers (Jarrod Saltalamacchia).

Here was Houston’s lineup against Roy Halladay Sunday: Altuve, Paredes, Moore, Maxwell, Dominguez, Corporan, Martinez, Greene, Lyles.

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Adrian Gonzalez was 0 for 5 Sunday, his average has dropped to .233, and the Dodgers have fallen behind the Cardinals in the wild-card hunt.

Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo, one of the players the Sox traded to get Gonzo, went 3 for 5, hit a pair of homers, knocked in six runs, and improved his average to .300.

Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at dshaughnessy@globe.com.
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