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Patriots eliminated from playoff contention at earliest point since 2000 season

Bill Belichick's most trying season in his illustrious New England tenure met mathematical misfortune on Sunday.

Despite defeating the Pittsburgh Steelers on Thursday night, the Patriots were officially eliminated from playoff contention due to the Cincinnati Bengals' 34-14 win over the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday.

With four weeks remaining in the season, it's the earliest a Patriots team has been mathematically eliminated since 2000 -- Belichick's first year with the franchise -- according to NFL Research. The Pats went 5-11 that year after going 4-9 through 13 games. It marks another first for the Pats under Belichick as they're now amid a two-year playoff drought, something unseen during a tenure that's produced nine Super Bowl berths and six wins.

New England is now 3-10, one loss shy of matching Belichick's most defeats in a season in the aforementioned ill-fated 2000 campaign. Though history shows that season as the beginning of the NFL's most successful two-decade run, this one has a far different feel.

It's been a woeful season in every which way for Belichick and his beleaguered Pats. His defense has been hampered by injuries to Matt Judon and Christian Gonzalez, and the offense has been a disaster until a blip of excitement in Thursday's win.

Across Tom Brady's two decades with the team, he never played in a Patriots game in which the team was out of playoff contention. Now, four weeks remain in New England's 2023 season, and wins and losses will only impact the 2024 NFL Draft.

For so long in Boston, the Patriots brought about the best of times. These are officially the worst of times for Belichick's bunch.

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