Some thoughts coming off of what was a frustrating 24-10 loss against Buffalo at Gillette stadium:
1) Thursday night’s New England Patriots loss against the Bills started off with a miscue and then a little bit of hope, but everything essentially went off the rails from there.
It wasn’t pretty, and the aftermath is likely going to make for a long 10 days before we next see this team on the football field.
It started off with a botched handoff on New England’s first series that they fortunately recovered, which saw Rhamondre Stevenson go one way while Mac Jones went the other on a 3rd-and-1 on New England’s opening drive. That was essentially a sign of things to come on a night that ended up being full of mistakes and miscues, which has been a theme all season.
Buffalo took advantage and went downfield on the ensuing drive, going 37-yards on nine plays, but the Patriots’ defense held them to just a 48-yard field goal, which gave the Bills an early 3-0 lead.
From there, the next Patriots offensive series was also mistake-ridden. After getting out to midfield, they got flagged for a holding penalty on Trent Brown, and then followed that 1st-and-20 up with a screen pass to Stevenson, where he lost the football during the play, but Nelson Agholor recovered it and they avoided a potential disaster.
However, the next play got everyone at Gillette Stadium to their feet. The Patriots brought in Marcus Jones, who had also played offense in college, and the rookie caught a short pass and absolutely blew past Buffalo’s defenders, taking off for a 48-yard touchdown to give New England a 7-3 lead.
Nobody knew at the time that would be the only touchdown by the home team. It also ended up being the most creative that we saw them be for the entire contest.
On a night where they needed to pull out all the stops and get a critical win to even have a shot at unseating Buffalo in the Division, let alone trying to keep alive any chance at getting back to the postseason, it didn’t happen. At this point last season, they had run three plays where a wide receiver had thrown a football. They’ve yet to do so all season. Instead, that one innovative moment was the only one we saw. From there, it was mostly more of the same, and Buffalo certainly appeared ready for all of it.
They again couldn’t convert on third down (3-of-12) and were essentially shut out for the remainder of the game.
“Not really too much to say here. Just obviously couldn’t do enough tonight,” said a clearly frustrated Belichick after this one. “Got to give Buffalo credit. They’re a good football team. We just couldn’t do enough. Had some opportunities but just nothing in particular, just in general, just not quite good enough in any area, red area, offensively, making plays in the kicking game. Yeah, that’s about the end of it.”
It was a brutal night for Belichick’s team. (Photo: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports)
2) For Buffalo, they controlled this one throughout. They held the ball for over 38 minutes as New England’s offense couldn’t consistently get anything going. The Patriots only had three possessions in the second half and made a couple of puzzling decisions over that span. But the dagger really came after they forced a punt on Buffalo’s opening drive of the second half.
After getting out near midfield, Buffalo dropped Stevenson for a 4-yard loss and then nearly picked off Jones on the next play after he was flushed from the pocket. The second-year quarterback rolled to his left and tried to connect with Hunter Henry on the sideline near the sticks, but Bills’ safety Jordan Poyer jumped the throw and appeared to make the turnover. However, it was overturned after the replay determined he didn’t maintain control of the ball.
But facing a 3rd-and-14, Jones was forced to settle for a 5-yard throw to Jakobi Meyers, and what was frustrating was the overhead shot, one of the few the Amazon broadcast showed all night, revealed there were no other options due to the design of the play.
They at least seemingly got off a good punt, with Mike Palardy’s kick getting downed at the Bills’ 6-yard line. In theory, it seemed to at least give Buffalo a long field with a shot at the Patriots potentially getting good field position if they could force Buffalo to punt.
Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. The Bills instead went on an excruciatingly long drive, and by the time it ended, it sent most of the fans at Gillette Stadium heading for the exits. They held the ball for nearly nine minutes before finishing things up with a 1-yard touchdown run by Devin Singletary, which extended their lead to 24-7.
The Patriots didn’t respond on their next series. Jones started things off with a 15-yard completion to Kendrick Bourne, but a short pass to Stevenson was dropped for a 5-yard loss two plays later and Jones again had to settle for an 8-yard throw to Meyers, which left them with a 4th-and-7 near midfield.
Yet, for some odd reason, trailing by 17 points with just over 12 minutes to go in the game, they elected to punt instead of going for it. Clearly, that shows you the lack of confidence even the coaches had at that point of the game, and aside from trying to keep the score from getting any more lopsided, it didn’t make much sense.
“Yeah, thought it to stay in the game,” said Belichick when asked about it during his press conference.
Obviously, there’s not much love lost between Belichick and Bills coach Sean McDermott and ending up with a potentially bigger margin likely didn’t thrill him. That was evident given the decision with two minutes left in the game to settle for a 39-yard field goal. 24-10 certainly looks a little less ugly than a potential 31-7 edge, but it doesn’t change the fact the problems are still there.
It was a tough night for Jones and the offense. (David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports.)
3) The biggest issue is a lot of the frustrations finally came to the surface Thursday night, with Jones finally boiling over at one point of this game. The Amazon crew captured Jones erupting on the sideline saying, “Throw the f—–g ball! F—–g quick game sucks! F–k!”, clearly aiming his ire onto Patricia’s playcalling following their early third-quarter stalled drive.
He wasn’t alone. Kendrick Bourne also voiced his frustration with the offense, which obviously was terrible on third down Thursday night.
“Yeah, man, we need to scheme up better,” said Bourne via Andrew Callahan of the Boston Herald. “We need to know what they’re doing. We need to know what they wanna do on third down. … They call this, and we call that, and it falls right into what they want.”
That’s not exactly encouraging to hear, and according to several reports, there seems to be a similar sentiment around the locker room. Another report said the players believe they’re telegraphing the plays to the point where teams know what’s coming.
It also didn’t help that they haven’t been overly aggressive on early downs, which was the case again on Thursday night and it put them in a bad position on third down. Of their 12 third downs against the Bills, just three were for less than 3rd-and-6, with five of them ending up as 3rd-and-10 or longer.
That’s clearly not a recipe for success.
“It’s a combination of things,” said Belichick on their third down issues. “So there’s a lot of things we could to do better. Some of it’s third down, some of it’s first and second down.”
When asked if it was a playcalling or an execution issue, Belichick responded, “We just need to do a better job overall.”
They faced eight second-down plays in the second half, with seven of them being 2nd-and-6 or longer. That means they obviously didn’t have much luck on first down, and it created a problem that allowed Buffalo to pin their ears back and kept New England from ever having a shot at getting back in the game.
Jones said that was part of the reason for his outburst. When things weren’t moving, he felt they needed to abandon their short passing game and be more aggressive.
“Obviously, just kind of let my emotions get to me but we’re kind of playing from behind,” Jones explained. “What I said was about throwing it deeper in the short game. I got to execute that part better. But it’s the short game we kept going to, which is working. But I felt like we needed chunk plays. I shouted that out to kind of get everyone going.”
Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports
4) Stevenson was again one of the few bright spots in this one, including one play where he dragged the pile nearly 10-yards to move the chains. He finished Thursday night rushing 10 times for 54-yards as well as catching 6 passes on 8 targets for 24-yards.
He’s been outstanding this season, and he’s quietly done it at the expense of Damien Harris, who has seemingly had some oddly timed injuries. With Harris headed to free agency this offseason, it’s clear that after seeing what’s going on with Stevenson, the writing is obviously on the wall when it comes to his future here with the club.
At the same time, what’s getting a bit lost is the fact that so far, we haven’t seen anyone step up who can spell Stevenson. Rookie Kevin Harris got the nod behind him Thursday night but saw just one snap where he slammed into and was dropped by Buffalo’s Shaq Lawson, who was locked up with Hunter Henry, and he quickly shut down the hole Harris was trying to run through. The coaching staff clearly wasn’t happy with the play because Harris never saw the field again.
J.J. Taylor and Pierre Strong Jr. also haven’t developed this season, which is going to make things interesting heading into next year. Ty Montgomery is under contract for another season, but his health is obviously a question mark.
But Damien Harris’ departure, if that’s ultimately what ends up happening, may complicate this situation a bit and make Stevenson’s health next season critical for how far this team ultimately goes.
5) Meanwhile, a lot of people are going to put this loss on Jones, but it’s becoming really apparent that things go much deeper. People have mentioned pocket awareness while comparing Jones to Bailey Zappe from that standpoint, but it’s hard to think that aside from an occasional play or two, the end result would ultimately be much different.
Over the last few games, teams with a good pass rush are getting inside pressure, and guys are falling down or completely missing blocks, which is making it tough to run the offense effectively. Honestly, asking any quarterback to play an entire game that way is just asking too much.
You can evade outside pressure. When it’s coming from inside, that makes things incredibly difficult with nothing to step up into. Just ask Tom Brady, especially for those of us who recall those meetings against the Giants.
Anyone who goes back and looks at the second half of the Bears game has to admit that New England’s offensive line didn’t exactly do Zappe any favors, as he was sacked and pressured during two quarters that also saw him throw two interceptions while the offense got shutout.
Aside from Allen and maybe Patrick Mahomes, not a lot of quarterbacks can run around for 60 minutes and make plays and single-handedly win football games. Expecting two young players who aren’t built for doing that over the course of an entire game, or at this rate, over a 17-week season, is a massive ask.
Given how things have been going, it’s possible that if New England drops a couple of more games and tension begins to build between Jones and the coaching staff, we could see Zappe if the Patriots are sitting at 6-9 in three weeks.
But facing both Miami and Buffalo, who could each still be fighting for the Division at that point and playing meaningful football, it would likely see the rookie having to face similar issues. Especially with Patricia still calling the plays.
Needless to say, it’s a messy situation and one that likely isn’t going to get any better. Hopefully, for the team’s sake, they’re able to string together a few wins over the next few weeks and at least remain in contention.
If they don’t, it will likely set up what could most definitely be one of the longer offseasons in recent memory.
Posted Under: Patriots News
Tags: 2022 Patriots Season Patriots vs Bills