The Patriots once again got embarrassed on the field, this time against the New Orleans Saints, getting blanked 34-0 in Gillette Stadium. They weren’t facing a juggernaut-type team here, but a Saints team that had lost two in a row and whose offense had struggled.
The back-to-back 30+ point losses are the first time that this has happened to the Patriots since 1970. In my opinion, that team was the worst team in the Patriots’ history, even worse than the Rod Rust 1-15 team. That in itself is not a good omen.
The offense has scored 20, 17, 15, 3, and 0 points in the five games. The trending down is not a good sign and doesn’t show any sign of improvement at this point. The defense, which was to be the strength of the team, is really banged up, and the STs continue to play sloppy.
I’ve been bullish on this team since Day 1 of training camp, and perhaps that optimism was very misplaced. Right now, this is a bad football team. They’re making the same mistakes, coming out slowly and continuing to turn the ball over.
So, here are our grades this week for the Patriots-Saints game.
Mac Jones looks broken right now. He was under duress for most of the game, but even when he’s not, he’s feeling pressure that isn’t there and throwing off his back foot. The pick-six was just another case of him trying to force something that wasn’t there. Take the sack and move on.
Instead, he tried to force the play and was hit as he released the ball. It was a knuckleball right to Tyrann Matthieu. The pitch on the fake 4th and 1 run to Stevenson was just awful. And to add insult to injury, the final interception wasn’t his fault. He delivered the ball to Ty Montgomery, who then had it punched out and right to Pete Werner. It just added to another miserable day, and was sat down after the play. Jones finished 12 of 21 for 110 yards with 0 TDs and 2 INTs for a passer rating of 30.5.
Bailey Zappe came into the game with much fanfare but fared no better, completing just 3-9 for 22 yards and badly missing Hunter Henry and Kendrick Bourne. He didn’t register a first down in four series. So, he’s not the savior waiting in the wings.
Running Backs: D
The Patriots’ running game is non-existent. Just 18 rushes for 45 yards and a 2.5-yard average. That is just awful. Rhamondre Stevenson had 8 rushes for 24 yards, his long carry of the day, 8 yards was on the first play from scrimmage, and Ezekiel Elliott had 8 rushes for 21 and added four catches for 17. Jones and Montgomery each had a rush for 0 yards. That was it, and it was not pretty.
Watching the game, it seemed so slow and plodding that it had so little chance of success. Yes, the offensive line was awful again, and we’ll soon get to them, but Stevenson and Elliott have to get some yardage on their own and break some tackles as well.
But the entire running game looked broken as well.
Wide Receivers: F
Little to no production from the WR group, which has been a recurring theme in 2023. Bourne had two catches for 43 yards and two penalties. Demario Douglas had one catch for 24 yards but suffered a head injury on the play and didn’t return.
DeVante Parker had just two catches for 20 yards. He was targeted on two 50/50 (80/20?) balls and came down with neither. JuJu Smith-Schuster had three receptions for six (6) yards. Ty Montgomery couldn’t hold on to a Jones pass that was intercepted. He was flagged for a false start and ended the game with one catch for five yards on four targets.
Tight Ends: D
Matt Gesicki was a player that I had hoped to see more of this week. He was targeted just four times and had two catches for 17 yards. Hunter Henry, Jones’ most reliable and trusted target, had zero catches on two targets, although he was wide open for a large chunk play near the end of the game, but Zappe missed him badly.
How can an offense that is built around focusing on two TE sets have just six targets and just two catches for 17 yards? Inconceivable.
Offensive Line: F
David Andrews summed it up perfectly when he said, “Kind of the same old story.” Indeed it was. Wash-rinse-repeat.
The offensive line got no push in the running game. They tried attacking the edge a few times with terrible results. They had the same starting unit as last week in Dallas, and once again, Vederian Lowe struggled on the right side. Michael Onwenu suffered an ankle injury and didn’t return. Reilly Reiff, fresh off of IR, jumped in at RG.
Lowe and Trent Brown each gave up a sack at the end of the first half to negate any hopes of a scoring drive. Last week, Jones was pressured on 50 percent of his dropbacks. This week, it was close to that percentage again. If you’re asking why he’s seeing ghosts, this is a very big reason. He’s lost trust in the OL.
The poor pass protection coupled with zero running game equals another “F” grade. Does someone, anyone, Bueller, have La’ell Collins’ phone number? That would be a start.
Defensive Line: C-
The defensive line wasn’t bad against the running game of the Saints. Once they got far ahead on the scoreboard, they wanted to run the ball and shorten the game. And while they rushed 136 yards, it was on 42 attempts, which averages out to just 3.1 yards per carry. That isn’t bad; however, whenever the Saints really needed a run, they were getting them.
But the pass rush from the DL was poor in this one. The Saints OL had been leaky in the first month, but Carr had all day to throw on Chris Olave’s TD catch. Christian Barmore, Deatrich Wise, Sam Roberts, and Jeremiah Pharms had zero sacks and zero QB hits. The Saints had been awful in the red zone but went 3-4 on Sunday. UGH.
Losing Matthew Judon is a tough break for the defense, but the team’s inside LBs performed well, even if the outside backers didn’t produce much at all. Ja’Whaun Bentley was arguably the only player ready to go. He made a couple of tackles right off and then sacked Carr to end a drive. He finished with 11 tackles, a sack, a QB hit, and a TFL. Jahlani Tavai chipped in with eight tackles.
On the edge, Anfernee Jennings chipped in with five tackles but no sacks or QB hits. Josh Uche and Keion White each only had one tackle but no sacks or QB hits. That was disappointing since New Orleans was rated 22nd in pass protection and had faced lackluster opponents in their first four games.
The secondary welcomed back J.C. Jackson, who played well enough in his first game action. Jonathan Jones also returned after missing several weeks due to an ankle injury. Myles Bryant notched a sack on a blitz. He also had a QB hit and a TFL.
While they couldn’t really stop Carr and the Saints when they had to, they were trying to patch the secondary together after losing their top four corners, especially their best rookie, Christian Gonzalez. Carr finished 18-26 for 183 yards with 2 TDs and 0 INTs, although the Patriots should have challenged the play by Kyle Dugger. I guess they miss Ernie Adams up in the booth.
Special Teams: D-
Rookie kicker Chad Ryland missed another field goal, this one from 48 yards. He’s now only 4-8 for the season. And what happened to the reliable Joe Cardona? He had two more bad snaps that caused Bryce Barringer to shank two punts; one went for 26, and the other got a good roll and went for 44. Barringer, however, saved the group from another “F” grade by dropping five inside the 20.
Poor decisions in the return game also hurt. Montgomery returned a couple of kickoffs that didn’t make it to the 25. Jabrill Peppers muffed one punt and fair caught one at the six-yard line, which he should have let bounce.
You know it’s bad when Matthew Slater gets flagged twice.
I had the coaching staff getting the team ready to go after the debacle in Dallas. This was nearly as bad. The team came out with no energy and no sense of urgency. That is a very concerning sign, especially after the beatdown in Dallas. At home.
The staff threw in the towel when they punted on a 4th and 3 at the New Orleans 40-yard line with nearly 10 minutes to go in the 3rd quarter down 24-0. Not that they were going to mount a furious comeback. But what kind of message does that send to your team?
Bill O’Brien can’t solve the myriad issues with the offense while the STs continued their downward spiral of the past two weeks. Awful.
Where do they go from here? Belichick said that they’re starting over, but without wholesale changes at the OL, and WR rooms, there isn’t much he can do right now.
Well, folks, that’s a wrap for the Saints. We’re on to Las Vegas… “Viva Las Vegas with your neon flashin’ and your one-armed bandits crashin’” (Elvis’ voice)
Posted Under: Patriots Report Card
Tags: Alvin Kamara Bill Belichick Chris Olave David Carr Demario Douglas Devante Parker Ezekiel Elliott JC Jackson Jonathan Jones JuJu Smith-Schuster Kendrick Bourne Mac Jones Matthew Judon New England Patriots New Orleans Saints Patriots edge rushers Patriots offensive line Patriots wide receivers Rhamondre Stevenson Tyrann Mathieu