FOXBOROUGH – Salvaging the season? What if that is no longer possible?
Right now, the Patriots are a bad team. In terms of Patriot history, those of us with long perspectives are starting to get bad flashbacks. The New Orleans Saints came into Gillette Stadium on Sunday and totally flummoxed the Patriots, 34-0. The Saints are a good team, but not this good. You may have expected a loss like this in New Orleans, but not at home.
This game was biblically bad. It is the first time the Patriots have trailed by 31 or more points in consecutive games since 1970, their last season as the Boston Patriots. The 34-0 loss is the worst home shutout loss in team history, the last such game being a 31-0 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in 1969, the year the Chiefs won Super Bowl IV.
In other words, this is the worst we have seen the Patriots since Clive Rush was the head coach. Go to your Patriot history books and read about Rush.
For younger fans who don’t remember the Boston Patriots, you may think of the John Mazur era (1970-72), the horrid 1981 season featuring the season ending 23-21 loss to the Colts for the right to the top draft pick (Ken Sims), and the 1990 season, which featured the regrettable Lisa Olson incident and a 1-15 season. The two seasons that followed were with Hugh Millen at quarterback and Dick MacPherson as head coach. That was the last time the Patriots were this bad. Bill Parcells and Drew Bledsoe arrived in 1993 and everything changed.
Until now. What you saw on Sunday was bad football. Bad football played by a bad team. And one has to wonder if it will, or can, get better.
Right from the start, the Patriots were inept and playing from behind. On their second offensive possession, Mac Jones was pressured on third and six from his own 24-yard line. He threw a desperation pass to avoid a sack, but the ball deflected to Tyrann Mathieu, who took it 27 yards for a pick six touchdown. The only time the Patriots came close to scoring, the Patriots got the ball back and drove to the New Orleans 30 yard line, but Chad Ryland yanked a 48-yard field goal attempt wide left.
Jones could do absolutely nothing, and was once again replaced by Bailey Zappe in the second half. Jones finished 12 of 22 passing for 110 yards, two interceptions, and a passer rating of only 30.5. The first interception was on Jones as he should have taken a sack, but Jones can do absolutely nothing given the pitiful state of the offensive line.
David Andrews should be praised for being the first one at the podium in the post game press conferences. He stands there, takes questions, gives honest answers, and is as stand up as you would want any of the players to be. But Andrews has to be seething inside for the bad play of his offensive line. He praised Reilly Reiff for playing today through his injuries, but the bottom line is that the line as a group is not competitive. It cannot handle the basic rigours of what is needed from an NFL calibre offensive line. Be it a running game or a passing game, the level of talent simply isn’t there.
For Jones to get benched for a second straight week, one must wonder where his confidence level is at. He continues to say the right things and take responsibility for what goes wrong out there, and there are some things that Jones does that still need to be corrected. But his line is not at all giving him a chance to improve or even compete. In this offense as it is constructed today, Jones will never succeed no matter who his offensive coordinator is.
To compare this Patriot team to some of the worst teams in club history is flabbergasting to young Patriot fans who are only accustomed to winning Super Bowls. This writer goes back to about 1971, when UHF television got better and got a lot of us old Giants fans to finally watch the Patriots. The early 1970s were some very dry years also, when Mazur was the head coach. The team went in peaks and valleys; they thrived under Chuck Fairbanks, Raymond Berry, Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick, and failed under Ron Erhardt, Ron Meyer, Rod Rust, MacPherson and Pete Carroll.
Right now, the team seems headed for a valley. One will soon wonder how much patience Bob Kraft will have with the team as it is right now. Some local media types have wondered if Belichick will lose his job in the near or far future. Some others think that Jones may not be the right quarterback for the next several years.
Defensively, the team misses Matthew Judon and Christian Gonzalez very much. J.C. Jackson returned to the team today, and gave up a few receptions to Michael Thomas. Derek Carr was sacked twice but otherwise had a great day, hitting on 18 of 26 passes for 183 yards and two touchdowns, and a rating of 114.7. Alvin Kamara had 80 yards rushing but his per carry average was under 4 yards per carry.
What helped the Saints offensively was short fields to work with. Their three offensive touchdown drives were 62, 59 and 31 total yards respectively. One of those drives began off a missed field goal, another was off an interception. The Saints had 304 total yards as a team, which was somewhat respectable in a 34-0 shutout loss, in that the total wasn’t a lot worse.
Next week, the Patriots head back to Las Vegas to take on the Raiders. They had a won game last year until that hideous last play of the game. Chandler Jones was released after some legal troubles, so he won’t be there. Jimmy Garoppolo is back playing now, but Josh McDaniels is on the hot seat there. The Patriots get a good opponent to start team repairs with, but the game is on the road.
Who knows. Maybe the team will turn things around. They were 1-4 in 2000, Belichick’s first season, and finished 5-11. Maybe the team wants to tank for Caleb Williams. Whatever the case, the Patriots right now look as bad as the Patriots have ever looked. And again, for those of us who know, that’s pretty bad.
1990 was the worst. What the Patriots did to Olson was deplorable, worse than what happened on the field. The 2023 Patriots are not this bad. Yet.
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Posted Under: Patriots Commentary