Some quick thoughts following Sunday’s second-straight embarrassing loss for the New England Patriots:
1) Listening to Bill Belichick and the players after Sunday’s game it was hard not to come away with one thing given their statements.
They know they have a problem. But it definitely feels like they also have no idea how to fix it.
Coming off of Sunday’s 34-0 shutout against New Orleans, their largest franchise shutout defeat at home dating back to 1969 (a 31-0 loss to Kansas City), Belichick told reporters that the plan now will be to “start all over,” which seemed to be his theme heading into his press conference.
“Obviously, it was a poor performance today here. So just plain and simply, we’ve got to find a way to play and coach better than that,” said Belichick. “So that’s what we are going to do, start all over and get back on a better track than we’re on right now. Slow start. And then just couldn’t ever really get the game under control.”
They’re going to start all over. He repeated that same answer several times. That’s his solution to try and fix what’s transpired the last two weeks.
On the surface, acknowledging what’s not working is certainly good news. The only issue is, they still have who they have, which is going to make whatever “starting all over” means pretty difficult.
And when you hear someone like Belichick come back with that response, that’s a massive red flag.
The Patriots are in trouble right now, and the deficiencies are pretty obvious. The finger will get pointed at the quarterback, and there is certainly some blame to be placed there (more on that in a moment). At the same time, much of the issues still remain on offense that were there going back to March, and they’re each rearing their ugly head now that the difficult schedule the Patriots were up against has begun playing out.
They can’t open up the running lanes with this offensive line and they can’t protect whoever they put back under center. Mac Jones had a tough outing on Sunday, failing to rebound coming off of last week’s debacle in Dallas. He finished just 12-of-22 (54.5%) for 110 yards and two interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown. Bailey Zappe again saw action, finishing a paltry 3-of-9 and failing for a lot of the same reasons Jones did.
The offense could literally get nothing going, and Sunday was basically another day of deja vu. Jones threw another pick-six on Sunday, although this one came on a play where the offensive line collapsed in on him, and he was hit as he was throwing the football. His second interception was just unlucky as it came on a terrific throw to Ty Montgomery, with Jones dropping it in over three defenders, but Montgomery got it knocked away as he was trying to tuck the football, and it fell into the hands of Saints linebacker Pete Werner, who alertly made the interception.
Belichick was asked if he’s ever had to start over five games into the season.
“Yeah, I’ve done it before,” he responded.
That seems like a tall order given what he’s got to deal with and it feels more like he’s painted himself into a corner that he’s going to have a tough time getting out of.
2) Watching Jones on Sunday was incredibly disappointing and one thing is becoming painfully obvious, especially given how much benefit of the doubt he’s received over the course of the past year.
There’s a serious lack of humility that’s become apparent, and it’s a problem that may ultimately sink him.
Jones spent last week talking about getting back to his fundamentals and his footwork, with all the little things playing a big part in last weekend’s showing in Dallas. Both he and Bill O’Brien echoed those sentiments this week and talked about it being a major focus for him, but Sunday ended up revealing a lot of the same.
The third-year quarterback spent much of the afternoon again throwing flat-footed, not stepping into all of his throws, and just looking like the same mess he was one week earlier.
That essentially tells you that he may be more frustrated with the personnel issues and not enough on his own shortcomings to potentially try to overcome any of it.
There wasn’t a single sign of a step forward for Jones after all of the work he continues to talk about. There was also a lack of accountability compared to last week during his press conference. Just a lot more, “try and learn from it and do everything I can to get better.”
He said that last week, and then Sunday happened again. The one benefit this time is at least he didn’t have a plane ride home to sit through.
To make matters worse, there was little fire from him on the sideline. There was no urgency in the huddle. There was no firing his teammates up as things started to become more challenging. Instead, there was too much resignation to the circumstances he was dealing with, and there wasn’t enough resolve shown that two-straight weeks of failure just wasn’t acceptable.
It’s obvious Jones is likely frustrated, as is everyone. But given the comments by David Andrews and Hunter Henry, neither of them had any real answer to what’s wrong and certainly didn’t seem to have much confidence they can get it fixed.
What Jones also may not realize is, while he’s probably irritated about the fact he’s going to ultimately fall on the sword for the team’s lack of weapons, it’s not his failures on the field that will be the reason he could ultimately end up calling signals elsewhere if this continues. It’s instead going to be for his inability to guide his team through the turbulence they’re in the middle of and is probably only going to get worse.
That appears to be the biggest thing lacking right now. Late in the game, before Jones was even taken out, he was spotted on the sideline with his head down looking sullen. That’s not what they need, and it’s not what this team is used to.
It can’t continue. If the club spirals next week in Las Vegas again, his time may ultimately run out. But at this rate, it’s all on him. As bad as this mess is, it’s the lack of progress he made from last week that’s the most glaring, which tells us that he didn’t do enough to fix what he’s continuing to do wrong.
That also means he’s going to continue to be part of the problem. And for a team that’s 1-4 with a lot of football still to go against some difficult competition, that means things certainly won’t get better anytime soon.
Everything was a mess for the Patriots on Sunday on offense (PHOTO:Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports)
3) Overall, on offense, things were ugly on Sunday. Like, really ugly.
Think of how bad last weekend was. The Patriots came out of that game with eight receiving first downs and two on the ground. On Sunday, they managed just four in the air, and one on the ground, including just one total offensive first down in the second half.
To make matters worse, they were a mind-numbingly bad 1-of-14 on third down on Sunday, with both Jones (2-of-8 [25%] 32yds 1 INT) and Zappe (1-of-4 [25%] 8yds) combining for 3-of-12 (25%) for 40 yards and just one passing first down.
That is absolutely unbelievable, especially for an offense that managed to keep pace so well against both Philadelphia and Miami over the first couple of weeks of the season.
Saying they’re broken is an understatement. Demario Douglas again made a big play on Sunday but was lost to concussion protocol, leaving Jones again with DeVante Parker, Kendrick Bourne, and JuJu Smith-Schuster to try and move the chains on Sunday. Parker was again inconsistent and Smith-Schuster ended up taking a shot that also knocked him out of action, leaving them horribly depleted late in this one.
But the issue still remains, they have no playmakers, and no one any of their quarterbacks can look to when they need a big play in a key moment.
That’s why whatever Belichick’s idea is to “start all over,” it’s safe to say he’s absolutely got his work cut out for him.
4) Everything obviously starts along the offensive line, and that’s where most of their problems were again on Sunday.
With Cole Strange inactive, rookie Atonio Mafi got the nod in his place again up front and it didn’t work out too well on Sunday.
Jones’ pick-six came after the pocket collapsed as Marcus Davenport slipped past Mafi’s left, while Carl Granderson faked right and then made a nice move back inside to come in behind Davenport, hitting Jones as he stepped up in the pocket and released the football on a target that while the league scoresheet listed Rhamondre Stevenson, appeared to be targeted at Hunter Henry, who was breaking in across the middle.
That play saw the club instead replace Mafi with Riley Reiff, who returned this week. But Reiff also struggled and it was just the beginning of what would end up being a long afternoon for New England’s offense.
Those struggles have been an issue all season, with the ground game continuing to be the most glaring. Stevenson again labored to find holes to run through and their running game remained largely ineffective as the Saints manhandled them up front.
As we know, they’re limited and with Strange trying to fight through an injury that’s already reportedly going to need surgery, it’s hard to be confident any of this is going to get better.
5) All things considered, their defense did a solid job on Sunday. The only reason the score got out of hand was primarily because the Saints were either given the football with great field position, along with the fact New England’s offense also gave them little to no break for the majority of the contest.
The Saints enjoyed a time of possession advantage of 39:34 to just 20:26, which wore out New England’s group as their own offense couldn’t stay on the field. The Patriots’ offense had just one possession all game where they held the ball for at least seven plays, going 3 and out seven times in 14 possessions.
Belichick talks all the time about complimentary football. Sunday certainly wasn’t it.
Again, how they’re going to fix this remains to be seen. And Belichick is going to seemingly need somewhat of a miracle for whatever he’s planning to do to “start all over” as the Patriots appear to be in freefall without much of a hope of any type of soft landing heading into next weekend.
Posted Under: Patriots Commentary