FOXBOROUGH — Maybe this is all about transformation. The new Patriots are an evolving work in progress.
That sounds a lot better than the postulation that this is simply not a good football team.
The New Orleans Saints are a beleaguered football team. Their home area is recovering from another generational hurricane and they haven’t been home in weeks. They melted down against the Panthers after blowing out the Jets. Jameis Winston is as much of an interception machine as the last opposing quarterback, Zack Wilson. Michael Thomas is still out with an injury, making Alvin Kamara the only true offensive threat on the Saints’ team.
This was a game the Patriots should have won.
Some may say that this was perhaps a trap game, in that the Patriot players were more focused on next week’s opponent, the Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and the homecoming of Tom Brady. If not, then the Patriots put on a performance to be truly ashamed of. Numerous mistakes, which you usually don’t see the Patriots make, along with a lack of clutch plays when needed, added up to a 28-13 New Orleans victory on Sunday at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots are now 0-2 at home with the most anticipated regular season game in Gillette Stadium history now at hand.
If mistakes aren’t the chief concern for Bill Belichick and his staff, then the offensive line is. Trent Brown once again could not suit up today, and the ripple effect was obvious. Mac Jones was under attack all afternoon long. The running game was so bad that Jones turned out to be the team leader in rushing. Jones threw the first three interceptions of his career.
There were other areas where preventable errors hurt the Patriots. Jake Bailey had his first punt block of his career and also had a kickoff go out of bounds. Jonnu Smith had five drops, one of which turned into a pick six to begin the second half. Hunter Henry killed a fourth down and one play by sprinting downfield before the ball was snapped. Nelson Agholor whiffed on a potential third quarter touchdown by turning in on a curl pattern when Jones threw a post pattern pass.
Despite all this, the Patriots were in the game in the fourth quarter with 9:22 left in the game, and a 22-yard touchdown pass to Kendrick Bourne made it 21-13 Saints. With that much time left, the Patriots had a very good chance to pull out the win, if they could get the ball right back with a good defensive stop.
The defense up to that point played reasonably well. Two interceptions gave the Saints a short field which accounted for 14 of their points. The last two New Orleans drives were three and out. The Gillette Stadium crowd was at a fever pitch. Jones would get a chance to pull off his first comeback win as Patriot quarterback.
But Jones would never get that chance.
Facing third down and 8 at their own 27, needing to get off the field, Winston was able to hit Deonte Harris on a quick slant for 12 yards. Jalen Mills was the defender, and was playing way off the receiver instead of playing him tight. That first down conversion set the Saints off on a 75-yard, 13-play drive to put the game away, coming off a slant completion that never should have happened. Kamara had five touches on th=at game clinching drive, gimmick quarterback Taysom Hill had a 14-yard scramble, and Hill finished it off with a 4-yard touchdown run off right tackle through a wide hole that Ivan Fears could have run through.
Jones had his first three picks in the game, and only one of them might possibly be on Jones. The first one was in the second quarter, as Jones was clobbered by Kaden Elliss as he released the ball. The dying quail was picked off by Marcus Williams, who returned it 46 yards to the Patriot 9. Three plays later, on third and goal at the 7, the same thing happened to Winston as he dropped back and was clobbered by Kyle Dugger as he released the ball. But unlike Jones, luck was with Winston as his dying quail was corralled in the back of the end zone by Marquez Callaway with Jonathan Jones in futile coverage.
The second pick was totally regrettable, but not on Jones. The first play of the second half was a crossing route to Smith. The perfect toss was bobbled up in the air by Smith, and former Eagle Malcolm Jenkins (a Super Bowl champ a few years back with Philly at the expense of your Pats) picked off the ball and ran 34 yards for a pick six. It was 21-3 Saints, and the Patriots were deflated.
Jones threw a pick in garbage time near the end of the game, a fourth down desperation toss into the end zone which Marshon Lattimore picked off to end the game.
The beatdown could have been worse, as Aldrich Rosas was 0-2 on field goals in his fill-in job for the injured Will Lutz. But Bailey made up for that with his blocked punt and his out of bounds kickoff. Bailey is still the best punter in the NFL, but it just fell right in line with how badly the team played today and how un-Patriot-like the team looked today.
With James White out indefinitely with a hip injury suffered in the second quarter, the rushing game will take a huge hit. Rhamondre Stevenson still has not been seen since his fumble against Miami that might not really have been a fumble. Brandon Bolden had several touches today as did J.J. Taylor, but neither player was a factor as they both combined for 4 carries for one yard. Damien Harris had only 14 carries on six carries. Jones managed 28 yards to lead the team.
Jones was 30 of 51 passing for 270 yards, one touchdown, three picks and a 55.2 rating. Bourne was the top receiver with 96 yards on six catches. Jakobi Meyers had the most catches (nine) for 94 yards.
Ask Tom Brady how he feels about Jones and his first three career picks. His answer would be something like “Tough (colorful word deleted)!!! I had four picks in a game at Denver in 2001 and we won the whole (cover your ears) thing at the end of the year!!! Man up and move on!” Suffice it to say that Jones will do both, but a date with your predecessor won’t help right away.
This coming week will be all about Brady and Belichick and Bob Kraft. Hopefully the spotlight will be somewhat off Jones for a bit, as everyone on the planet will be all over Brady versus Belichick and not Brady versus Jones. Jones might have a chance to relax, watch the game film, and understand that he has more to worry about with Jason Pierre-Paul and not Brady.
It may be an ugly week and an ugly game next Sunday night. But Jones is your guy now and he will need all of his maturity to handle all that will happen or likely happen.
The real burden falls on everyone not named Mac Jones. They either bring their ”A” game or else it will be a very regrettable Sunday night.
Posted Under: 2021 Patriots Season