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Patriots News 12-3, Positional Report Card Against the Bills

Steve Balestrieri
Steve Balestrieri on Twitter
4 months ago at 5:00 am ET
Posted Under: Patriots Report Card

Patriots News 12-3, Positional Report Card Against the BillsDec 1, 2022; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones (10) hands the ball off to running back Rhamondre Stevenson (38) during the first half at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

Good morning.  Another disappointing Thursday night performance by the Patriots. The loss drops the team to 6-6, and the window for making the post-season is getting ever smaller. They must win four of the final five games to have even an outside shot at it.   

The Patriots move on to the Arizona Cardinals next week, who are on a bye week, so the few extra days that the Patriots get to prepare is more than offset by Arizona’s. Later this week, we’ll dive more into the matchups.

Quick Hitters For the Patriots and the NFL:  

Tom Brady: The former Patriots QB is now the subject of the rumor mill of possibly coming back to New England. I imagine the hot-take artists have to keep inventing stuff to talk about. I put the chances at less than 5 % that this would happen.

Why? I can think of three reasons why that won’t happen.

  1. The Patriots balked at paying Brady three years ago, and now they’re suddenly going to find their checkbook? 
  2. The team invested a 1st round pick in Mac Jones, who they reportedly really like, despite the poor output this season, which is hardly all on him.
  3. Why would Brady agree to come back, given the abysmal state of the OL? Not to mention this offensive coaching staff. I imagined how Brady would’ve reacted to Thursday night’s debacle, and it would have made Mac Jones’ tirade seem calm.

Matthew Judon: The NFL leader in sacks restructured his deal a bit to give the Patriots a little salary cap breathing room for this season down the stretch for this season.

ESPN’s Field Yates reported that the deal with Judon will create $2,214,445 in additional cap space. Judon has 13 sacks, 24 QB hits, 11 tackles for loss, and 51 pressures. 

Jahlani Tavai: The Patriots linebacker has proved to be a very versatile player and has been rewarded with a two-year contract extension worth $4.4 million, according to Field Yates of ESPN. Tavai has been able to play inside and outside and has shown more athleticism than previously thought.  

Patriots 4th & 2 Podcast: If you haven’t checked out our podcast, “Patriots 4th & 2”, in a bit, please check it out. Russ, Derek, and I looked at the Vikings game. Next week, Russ will be unavailable, and our close friend Clare “Clazzy Clare” Cooper will join us. 

Russ Francis/Chuck Fairbanks: The former Patriot tight end and head coach both should be in the Patriots team Hall of Fame, and the fact that especially Francis isn’t is an absolute travesty. Francis and the Raiders’ Dave Casper changed the game with how teams used the tight end position…this will be on our Sunday posts until it happens.

Positional Report Card Against the Bills: 

The Patriots’ loss to the Bills not only hurt their playoff chances but showed the Bills are still far and away the better football team, and New England still has a long way to go.

This one was ugly, especially offensively (excuse the pun). How bad? The Patriots leading receiver was a kick return/cornerback. Ouch

So, here are our grades this week for the Patriots-Jets game. 

Quarterback: C-

Mac Jones was running from the Bills’ pass rush all night. He was under duress all night, and watching him trying to emulate Josh Allen, Patrick Mahomes; et al., mobile QBs tells you all you need to know. Jones is not ever going to be confused with those QBs. 

He was saddled with poor protection, a questionable game plan, and a lack of creativity (how many times have we said that?). He finished 22-of-36 passing, for 195 yards, with 1 TD and an 84.8 passer rating. 

Jones was not without errors. He and Stevenson had the bungled handoff on the first offensive series. He was flagged with an intentional grounding penalty that was nearly a safety, and he was nearly picked off by Jordan Poyer, trying to force the ball along the sideline. 

Running Backs: B

Rhamondre Stevenson was the entire show on Thursday night; he had 54 yards on 10 carries (5.4-yard avg). A very sizable chunk of it was yards after contact. The game plan was to run the ball and throw the ball quickly in the short passing game. 

Stevenson led the team in receptions with six, but the Bills were intent on shutting it down, and he only gained 24 yards. He has been the Patriots’ best offensive player this season. 

Wide Receivers: C-

The wide receivers were hampered by an inability to separate and the game plan, which affected their ability to do much in the short passing game. 

Rookie Marcus Jones led the group, who caught a bubble screen in the slot and took it to the house for a highlight reel 48-yard touchdown. His playmaking ability has been evident all season, and it was just a matter of time before the offense put him in there for a couple of plays. 

Fellow rookie Tyquan Thornton had two catches for 31 yards. Jakobi Meyers made a couple of contested catches. Nelson Agholor, DeVante Parker, and Kendrick Bourne combined for five catches for 48 yards.                                          

Tight Ends: D

Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith combined for four catches for just 19 yards, not nearly enough. Henry was targeted five times and had two catches for 13 yards. 

When the game plan is to throw short, how is it that the coaches can’t find more targets for these two? It’s been a constant problem all season. More to that is below. 

Offensive Line: D-

The offensive line reverted to its poor form after showing some signs of improvement a week ago. Although not all were accepted, every member of the OL was flagged for holding, with the exception of Michael Onwenu. 

The numbers put up by Stevenson are not indicative of the blocking they provided. A heckuva lot of his yardage came after contact. After running the ball only 13 times last week, the team ran the ball 14 times this week, three by Mac Jones.

The Bills were credited with only one sack, which would lead one to believe that the protection was good. But watch the tape. Jones was forced to scramble constantly as he was under duress all game. 

 Defensive Line: B-

The Patriots defensive line was leaned on heavily this week. The DL was forced to carry a heavy load by playing a lot of light packages. After getting pushed around a bit in the early going, they played better, despite being on the field for nearly 40 minutes. 

Buffalo rushed 37 times for 132 yards for only a 3.6-yard average. Josh Allen was held to just 20 yards on eight carries (2.5-yard avg). Davon Godchaux played well and notched 10 tackles, and a QB hit. 

Linebackers: C+

The linebackers were led by Josh Uche, who continues his torrid streak with two sacks (including a strip sack) and three QB hits. After notching just a single tackle through seven games, Uche has now produced seven sacks in the past five games.

Matthew Judon was double-teamed a lot in this game and seemed to be held quite a few times (another familiar refrain here). The one holding penalty that he drew erased a 41-yard TD.

Ja’Whaun Bentley played in 87 percent of the snaps on Thursday, and watching him trying to chase Allen down as a spy in the 4th quarter was a head-scratcher. Especially since Jahlani Tavai, Raekwon McMillan, and Mack Wilson barely saw the field. 

 Secondary: D

The Patriots’ secondary couldn’t stop the Bills’ #1 WR, Stefon Diggs. Diggs caught seven passes for 92 yards and a TD on nine targets. He was getting the better of the battle between him and the Joneses (Jon and Jack).  

While Josh Allen threw for only 223 yards (22-33, 2 TDs, 106 passer rating), he was brilliant, making some plays and throws that only he and a scant few players can make. He showed patience and was willing to take what the defense gave. It was death by a thousand cuts.

While fans were lamenting the play of the defense, Allen does this to everyone with few exceptions, however…

Jon Jones got turned on a corner TD catch and was flagged for a hold. Jack Jones was flagged for holding and pass interference. The safeties had troubles with rookie RB James Cook who had 105 total yards, 64 rushing, and 41 receiving.

Special Teams: C-

Special Teams did not have a great game for the second consecutive week. Nick Folk doinked a 48-yard FG at the end of the first half that could have turned it into a one-score game. We can discuss the awful time management on the drive, but it is a kick Folk normally makes. 

There was also a delay of game penalty on a punt and a hold by DeMarcus Mitchell.

Punter Michael Palardy started off badly but put a couple inside the 20. The kickoff returns were so-so, but Marcus Jones did have one of 30. The coverage units were excellent. 

Coaches: D

The defensive coaches adjusted after the Bills early in the game were eating them up. There was a sequence where the defense forced a punt, a turnover, and another punt at the end of the first half and the Bills’ first drive of the third quarter. It seemed that they had figured things out. 

But the offense couldn’t generate anything, and the defense was getting gassed by not having the offense give them a break. They tried different things to slow down the Bills’ offense but couldn’t get near enough execution.

 On the other hand, the offense was a prime example of many of the same things we’ve said all year. A lack of creativity, running the same plays over and over when the defense knows what you are running, and terrible time management.  

At the end of the first half, with under a minute remaining, a draw play was called that netted no gain, and the Patriots used their second timeout after wasting several seconds. And instead of calling two plays (unfathomable), the coaches just called a QB sneak on 3rd and 1 and were then forced to use their final timeout.  And up to Marcus Jones’ TD, the coaches called four play-action passes. And they were working. After the TD, they called two (2). That is terrible coaching.

Mac Jones, Kendrick Bourne, and Hunter Henry all expressed frustration with the way things are regressing. As probably all the offensive players are…and should be. Jones took the high road after the game, but his in-game rant was unmistakable.

We’re on to the Cardinals…

Week 13 Game Predictions:

The slate of games for Week 13 and my predictions are straight up for this week. Carolina and Arizona are on a bye week.

Thursday Night Football
Buffalo over New England  1-0

Pittsburgh over Atlanta
Chicago over Green Bay
Detroit over Jacksonville
Minnesota over NY Jets
NY Giants over Washington
Philadelphia over Tennessee
Baltimore over Denver
Cleveland over Houston
Seattle over LA Rams
San Francisco over Miami
Cincinnati over Kansas City
Las Vegas over LA Chargers

Sunday Night Football:
Dallas over Indianapolis 

Monday Night Football:
Tampa Bay over New Orleans

Last Week:         8—8

This Season:   111—67—1
Last Season:   182—88—1

2020 Season:   169—86—1

2019 Season:   162—93—1


“But look, the bottom line is, we need to just keep working to improve it every week. This week will be different. Arizona’s a different defense than Buffalo. Buffalo’s a different defense than Minnesota. Minnesota’s a different defense than the Jets. 

“So it’s not as simple as working against – improving your time in the mile run. I mean, that’s not what this is. This is about competing against another team. So we’ll see what all that entails as we get into Arizona. But we need to continue to work to do things better on our end. Then as it relates to our specific opponent, then match them up and doing well against that opponent. So that’s really the process.

“Just keep working through it. There’s no magic wand here.”

Patriots’ head coach asked about the struggles of the offense on Thursday night and how the team can fix its issues. 


“So, how was your week?”

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on Stitcher and Streamyard as Russ Goldman, Derek Havens, and myself from discuss the latest Patriots news and game analysis.


Posted Under: Patriots Report Card
Tags: Bill Belichick Buffalo Bills Jack Jones Jakobi Meyers Jonathan Jones Josh Allen Kendrick Bourne Mac Jones Marcus Jones Matthew Judon New England Patriots Patriots Patriots edge rushers Rhamondre Stevenson Stefon Diggs

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    Mike Rubin
    Mike Rubin
    3 months ago

    Steve – no disagreement w/ any of your comments or grades, espec. this wk. Only thing I could add is that the 1 coach most obviously missed in Foxboro is Scar. Cliché or not: “If you have no offensive line, you have no offense.” “Football is blocking & tackling. You block & tackle better than the other team, you win the game.” Etc. As to the other cliché (Belichick is senile, over the hill): Dismantling, rebuilding & reintegrating an organization IAW new conditions, espec. after long success w/ a previous approach, may be among the most difficult of human endeavors.… Read more »

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