MORSE: 15 Observations from the Patriots’ Playoff Loss to Buffalo Bills
Ahead of this game, many talking heads have said that if the Pats lose to the Bills that it was a disappointing season. I don’t see it that way. Our expectations were pretty low when the season started. The play of rookie Mac Jones at QB and the surprising improvement of the defense over the 1st 13 games gave us false hope of going deep into the playoffs. When the team went up against the iron of the league, the Patriots’ weaknesses got exposed. Despite the playoff loss, this was a very good season considering where we came from.
- This was the worst playoff loss and the worst overall loss in the Belichick era. The Patriots’ defense had no answers for the Bills and Josh Allen. This is the second straight game the Bills didn’t have to punt. The Bills had 8 trips into the Red Zone and score 7 TDs. This loss is squarely on the defense and to some extent directly on Bill Belichick as the head coach and player personnel chief.
- Josh Allen had another great game against the Patriots. As I wrote in the Preview, I was leery of Josh Allen ability to run the ball and extend plays. He had 66 yards rushing and faked out Matt Judon for a big 26 yard gain. Later he bought time, evaded a missed tackle by Kyle Van Noy (a total of 10 seconds), and looked to be throwing the ball away, but he nestled that throw to Dawson Knox over a one-armed Kyle Dugger at the back of the end zone.
- Allen ended up with a QB rating of 158.3, which is perfect! 21 of 25 for 308 yards. At one point in the 1st half, the Bills had 18 1st downs on 31 plays.
- Micah Hyde’s interception was extraordinary. Did Mac Jones throw too much of an arc that allowed Hyde to get over there? I would have liked to see Nelson Agholor high point that throw rather than try and let it drop right in his breadbasket. Go out and get the ball. Make the effort and show you want it more.
- The Patriots were too passive and they let the Bills dictate. Damien Harris not reaching forward to get the 1st down showed me the Patriots didn’t want it bad enough.
- The Bills’ drives in the 1st half were 70 yards, 80 yards, 81 yards, and 89 yards. The Bills had 300 yards of offense in the first half. The Defense had no answers. They are a bad combination of old, inexperienced, and lack speed. I think you need to look at the defensive coaches as well. How good is Steve Belichick or is it just nepotism by Bill Belichick? What is the role of Jerod Mayo and what is his future with the team?
- I highlighted the improved play of Devin Singletary in my preview and he didn’t disappoint. He had 81 yards on 16 carries, 5.1 yards per carry, and 2 TDs. He ran angry, hard, and determined. The Patriots gave up 174 yards on the ground, with Allen accounting for 66 yards.
- Dropped passes by Brandon Bolden and Jakobi Meyers put the Patriots in a difficult spot. Jones overcame a lot of bad plays by his backs and receivers.
- Kendrick Bourne had a great game. He was targeted 8 times and had 7 catches for 77 yards and 2 TDs. He has solidified his position as an important cog in the future of this team.
- Injuries have caught up with the Patriots’ defense and it showed up in this game. The loss of Jon Jones at slot corner was a huge loss. The sickness of Jalen Mills hurt. I was not impressed with Mills during the season. Kyle Dugger made great strides this season and played one-handed with a club on his right hand. Ja’Whaun Bentley went down in the 2nd quarter and trying to stop the run without him was fruitless. Christian Barmore was a real trooper and played through the knee injury he sustained last week but struggled. The Patriots linebackers are old and slow. When Bentley went out with an arm injury, Josh Allen recognized that and ran right at Kyle Van Noy for a 1st down. Donta Hightower is a shell of himself and Jaime Collins was invisible. Bentley had 17 tackles last week vs Miami and he is the only one I would bring back.
- How about that block by Mac Jones on DE Mario Addison. Jones pancaked Addison and knocked him out of the game with a shoulder injury.
- A few missed calls by the officials. On one of Allen’s TDs, Deitrich Wise had beaten his man on a direct line to the QB and he was tackled from behind – no call. Damien Harris was forced out of bounds and was nailed by a Bills player wearing an overcoat. Harris was knocked into the bench on the hit – no call
- I was looking at the replay of the Kendrick Bourne TD and he is pointing to a flag. Wait that’s not a flag, it’s a “Marital Aid”! Keep it classy Buffalo! I am sure the NFL is proud of that being shown on National TV games. Doesn’t all stadiums have cameras that can identify who threw it and punish them by revoking their tickets? Wait this is not the first time this has happened, which means the Bills ownership condones this type of behavior.
- One of the biggest problems with the Patriots’ defense is the lack of speed, especially the linebackers. The Patriots like the 6’3” or better, 250 lb linebackers. That’s not how the game is being played now. This is an indictment of Bill Belichick the GM. The Patriots have a very narrow criterion for being a “Patriots Type” prospective draft pick. Their Draft Board is usually about 75 players deep. It varies from year to year but is well under 100. I am convinced that the Patriots ran out of “Patriots” prospects early in this past draft. They drafted three players that were going to need a “redshirt” year because of injuries. Ronnie Perkins, Cameron McGrone, and Joshua Bledsoe will be ready to play next year, but they can’t afford to do that again. The disaster of the 2019 draft of 1-3 round picks, N’Keal Harry, Jojuan Williams, and Chase Winowich has come to haunt the Patriots. All three players will be gone next year.
- Beating the Patriots, no let’s say embarrassing the Patriots is the Super Bowl for the Bills and their fans. They are likely to fall flat on their faces next week when they come down from the high of winning this game. Bill Belichick will not forget the amount of passing the Bills were doing late in the game when there was no doubt in the outcome. Passing to O lineman Tommy Doyle as an eligible lineman late in the game won’t be forgotten. This will be bulletin board material for next season. This was just sticking it to the Patriots. Remember this next year when the Pats meet the Bills.
Mac Jones will forever be compared to Tom Brady, fair or not. I will just say this, Tom Brady had a full year under Drew Bledsoe as his mentor. There was no expectation of Tom Brady as a 4th string on the depth chart, 199th player selected in the draft. In year two, when Bledsoe went down in week 2, Brady stepped in and the rest is history.
Jones numbers are actually better without the benefit of having a year to acclimate to the life in the NFL. Jones didn’t have Drew Bledsoe as his mentor. The expectations heaped upon Jones when he was selected with the 1st round, # 15 pick were tremendous. I think the future is bright with Mac Jones at QB. He will get stronger, as Brady did after year one. Some of those passes that have not been fired in there will get fixed in year two. Jones has that same intangible, doggedly doing everything he can to get better and improve. Jones is a true rookie. The last rookie to win a playoff game was Russel Wilson in 2013, an upset of the Washington Redskins. No rookie has ever made the Superbowl. Brady was technically not a rookie, but a second-year player. I am not saying Jones will be better than the GOAT. Just acknowledging the performance he has accomplished this season.
Over the course of the next few weeks, I will do a roster evaluation by position groups. First, will be the upcoming Patriots Free Agents. I will also be reporting on the draft and everything leading up to it. Two All-Star showcases are in the books already and the week of February 5th, the Senior Bowl practices, and game as well as the East/West Shrine game on February 3rd will be held.
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