Some thoughts following Sunday night’s tough loss to the Buccaneers:
1) When it came to quarterback play on Sunday night, Mac Jones ended up stealing the spotlight from Tom Brady during New England’s disappointing 19-17 loss to the Buccaneers.
The rookie was terrific, completing 78% of his passes in less than ideal conditions. Despite the fact it was raining all night, he missed on just nine attempts after connecting on 31-of-40 for 275yds along with two touchdowns.
At one point Jones connected on 19 straight, with the streak starting at the 12:44 mark in the second quarter before it finally ended on a misfire to Jonnu Smith with 5:31 left to go in the game. He also put together a stretch beginning at the 3:21 point of the 3rd quarter where he went 13 straight plays without facing a third down.
He did have an interception, which came on a tough throw late in the first quarter to Nelson Agholor where Jones got absolutely drilled on the play as the Buccaneers had a blitzer come free up the middle. Even still, Jones managed to make a fairly decent pass to Agholor, who unfortunately had the ball go off his fingers into the hands of a Buccaneers defender for the turnover.
Give Jones credit, that play was just one of many where Jones had pressure coming in and he was forced to try and make a good throw. Tampa Bay’s defense hit him 12 times and came away with 4 sacks, yet a graphic NBC showed saw him miss on just a handful of throws against the blitz, with Jones hitting on 15/19 for 146yds along with his touchdown and his lone turnover.
Also lost in last night’s performance is the fact Jones did a terrific job in the no-huddle while reading the defense and putting the offense in position to make plays. Considering this was just his fourth NFL start, along with everything that was at stake, it was definitely a performance that he should feel pretty good about.
With a road game coming up against the Texans, that one is essentially a must-win game as at 1-3, New England’s margin of error is now extremely slim heading into the rest of the season if they hope to eventually be a playoff team.
Judon brought the heat Sunday night against Brady. (Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports)
2) Meanwhile, while it wasn’t perfect, New England’s defense did a pretty good job Sunday night against a tough Buccaneers offense.
They stepped up big in the red area, holding Brady and company to just 1-of-4 in the red zone, which forced Tampa to attempt five field goals, one of which sailed wide right early in the contest. That was big because it kept the game close enough for Jones to have a shot to put them in position for a go-ahead field goal at the end, but unfortunately, Nick Folk hooked it left and hit the upright.
Matt Judon did a good job getting pressure on Brady, with the linebacker making life difficult for him all night. He hit the veteran twice and came away with a sack, with the two exchanging words throughout.
Overall, New England held one of the best offenses in the league to just 19 points, which is really all that could have been expected. We’re quietly seeing them get a little better each week and it’s been a strength for a team that, with a rookie quarterback at the helm, has been able to keep them in most games.
It’s unfortunate because the biggest issue that continues to plague the team on the other side are penalties and turnovers. If they can get healthy along the offensive line and do a better job of protecting Jones, along with getting back to being able to run the football again, this team clearly has what it takes to make a run. But so far, while they’ve yet to put together a complete effort, the defense continues to show signs of being, while not maybe great, good enough to help them win football games.
3) Watching and listening to Brady after the game, it’s pretty obvious he was relieved when this one was over.
The game seemed to end exactly how he hoped it would. The Buccaneers came away with a win, but it was hard-fought on both sides. Belichick put together a game plan that made things tough on his former quarterback, with alignments and drops and player groupings that were changing so much that it led to confusion on the personnel side, forcing New England to burn timeouts as well as getting called for too many men on the field.
Brady appeared to start figuring things out a little more as the game wore on and he put together back-to-back drives in the fourth quarter that led to field goals, which ended up being just enough to lead his club to a victory.
But as he spoke after the game, it appeared as if a giant weight had been lifted and it was clear that this game was a burden he was glad he no longer had to deal with. He did go on to say that he plans on being part of the community here in New England in the years to come once his playing days are done, which was great to hear.
As usual, the former Patriots QB said all the right things and while the outcome was frustrating from a New England standpoint, it was obvious that he was exremely emotional about this one. While all of that was great to see, at the same time, it’s certainly nice that this game is now firmly in the rearview mirror.
Sunday night’s loss puts Belichick’s team at 1-3 on the year. (Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports)
4) Give Bill Belichick credit, if anyone was wondering about his feelings toward Brady, he should have ended any of that after seeing the two together at the end of the game.
As soon as it was over, Brady seemed appreciative of the fact Belichick sought him out and the two embraced briefly on the field and exchanged a few words, with Brady stopping for a moment before responding and appearing like he was a little emotional over the exchange.
Belichick also later reportedly privately went and spoke to him in Tampa Bay’s locker room for about 20-minutes after both clubs left the field, with the coach not revealing to reporters what was said between the two.
The reports all week did their best to make it appear like there was still animosity between both of the future Hall of Famers but as we witnessed, that definitely doesn’t seem to be the case. As for Belichick, deep down this one likely stings not because he lost to Brady, but because his team now has a tough road ahead after losing their third straight game at home.
5) A lot of discussion will probably be had this week about the decision to put Folk out there to attempt a 56-yard field goal during what was a downpour in the closing minutes of this one, but looking back, it made sense.
As Belichick told reporters on Monday they had only converted two first downs the entire game (they were 2-of-9 on 3rd down Sunday night) and it was either go with the guy who had hit 36-straight kicks to re-take the lead, or try and convert a first down against a tough defense where, if they failed, the game was over.
Belichick went with the odds and sent Folk out there, hoping the veteran could pull off the go-ahead field goal. Instead, the kick drifted to the left and clanged off the upright, falling to the turf and ending their comeback hopes.
Folk admitted after the game that he had hit from 58-yards in warm-ups and he thought the kick was going to go through as it left his foot, but obviously, that wasn’t the case.
The veteran’s miss is just a further reminder that this is a team that can’t seem to get anyone to step up in a big moment and make a play, which has plagued them all season. They’ve been very good so far, but they haven’t been great and that’s why they’re currently sitting at 1-3.
While it’s still early in the season, it doesn’t change the fact they’ll need to be better. With a trip to Houston up next, one can hope that next Sunday will be the start of a winning streak that will see them potentially come out on the other side in a better position by the time November gets here.
Posted Under: 2021 Patriots Season
Tags: New England Patriots Patriots vs Buccaneers Tampa Bay Buccaneers