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Cursed? It’s been all downhill for teams after beating Patriots

Matt Patricia (right) got to celebrate a win over Bill Belichick and the Patriots, but since then the Lions are 3-6.
Matt Patricia (right) got to celebrate a win over Bill Belichick and the Patriots, but since then the Lions are 3-6.(Jim Davis/Globe Staff)

FOXBOROUGH — One of the reasons this year’s Patriots team has been a little bit tricky to figure out is that they’ve beaten some of the best teams in the NFL and lost to some of the worst.

The Patriots were the only team in the NFL with a perfect record against opponents with a winning record until the Titans won Thursday night to get to 7-6. The Patriots had previously beaten playoff contenders in the Texans, Chiefs, Bears, and Vikings. The three teams they’ve lost to, however, the Jaguars, Lions, and Titans, have a combined winning percentage of .395. Only the Titans have a chance at a playoff spot.

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It hasn’t helped or offered additional clarity that those losses look worse in hindsight given another trend: Teams that beat the Patriots have seriously struggled after doing so.

“You mean like, there’s a curse?” Devin McCourty pondered when asked about the subject on Wednesday.

If there’s a Curse of Beating the Patriots, the Eagles, Jaguars, Lions, and Titans better start collecting garlic and wooden stakes, or consulting witches, or doing whatever it is you do to break curses.

This goes back to the offseason and the aftermath of last year’s Super Bowl, when some Eagles players proclaimed in the glow of victory that they’d prefer to get one ring and have a good time doing it than commit to the un-fun Patriot Way, even if it brought the same amount of success.

“Not to be reckless, but we’d much rather have fun and win a Super Bowl than be miserable and win five Super Bowls,” is how Eagles offensive tackle Lane Johnson put it last February.

It doesn’t seem like this year’s team is in any danger of adding to the Lombardi tally in Philadelphia. The Eagles are 6-6, having only just pulled themselves to .500 by beating a team on its third-string quarterback.

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And yes, every time a fourth-string Eagles cornerback gives up a touchdown, gloating Patriots fans suddenly appear like Janis Ian shouting “Did you have an awesome time?” at Cady out of the sunroof of Damian’s car in “Mean Girls,” but the Birds brought that on themselves.

Next up: Jacksonville, 31-20 winners in Week 2.

“It kind of felt like we won a Super Bowl, man,” Jaguars safety Tashaun Gipson said after beating the Patriots, moving to 2-0 on the season and, apparently, cementing the Jaguars as a serious contender.

If not for the curse, that is. The Jaguars scored 6 points in a loss to follow up their Week 2 Super Bowl. They are 2-8 since. Teams that have beaten the Patriots in 2018 are 6-16 since doing so. That winning percentage (.273) would be fifth-worst in the NFL right now.

That includes the Lions, who won, 26-10, in Week 3 to give Matt Patricia his first win as a head coach. Patricia was diplomatic with the media but made it clear in the locker room that this win was special. He hugged GM Bob Quinn — another ex-Patriot — so tightly he actually lifted Quinn off the ground. Players tousled Patricia’s hair.

“I’m sure it meant a lot, his first win as a head coach. Probably no sweeter than to do it against your old team,” Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford said.

The Lions have gone 3-6 since.

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The most recent team to beat the Patriots is the Titans, who romped 34-10, on Nov. 11. With a former Patriot as head coach in Mike Vrabel and several other ex-Pats on the roster, Tennessee looked like a motivated team getting what could have been a season-defining win.

“Hell yeah it’s personal,” Titans running back Dion Lewis told the NFL Network after beating his former team, which let him go as a free agent this past offseason. “That’s what happens when you go cheap. You get your [expletive] kicked.”

After administering that kick in the Patriots’ rear, the Titans mustered 10 points in a 38-10 loss to the Colts the following week. After losing again the next week, Tennessee rebounded to win its last two.

None of this, of course, does much to help the Patriots.

“Can we put that curse on before our games so we win?” McCourty said.

No, it doesn’t work like that.

Cornerback Stephon Gilmore’s old Bills teams never beat the Patriots, but he knows from being on both sides of the matchup how opponents play New England particularly hard.

“No matter what team it is they play us hard,” Gilmore said. “Maybe it’s their Super Bowl.”

So, no curse? Probably not. It’s helpful when considering the Patriots performance in those losses to understand how motivated those opponents were to beat them, goals that were helped considerably because New England’s weaknesses were glaring in those contests and that it’s usual strengths disappeared. It’s probably more helpful, though, as a cautionary tale to those teams going up against the Patriots.

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Consider this Sunday’s opponent, the Dolphins, who beat the Patriots, 27-20, in Miami last year. In that game, receiver Jarvis Landry celebrated a touchdown by pantomiming deflating a football, something he confirmed in a jubilant locker room afterward. At that point, the Dolphins were 6-7 and still in playoff contention.

Then, they lost their last three games of the season, finished third in the AFC East and missed the playoffs. The Curse of Beating the Patriots is undefeated, even if the Patriots themselves aren’t.


Nora Princiotti can be reached at nora.princiotti@globe.com.