Some thoughts on this Monday:
1) One day later, it’s hard not to feel like New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones showed some improvement on Sunday despite the club’s 21-17 loss in Las Vegas.
The biggest thing that stood out during this one was the fact Jones was much more sound mechanically than he’s been in weeks, with Jones setting his feet and stepping into many of his throws, which is something that we really hadn’t seen much of in previous games recently.
When he was on, it certainly yielded results. Sunday was an outing where he completed 72.7% of his throws, finishing 24-of-33 for 200 yards, and it’s also why the Patriots put together two touchdown drives and it would have been three had one not been negated by a penalty (more on that in a bit). Instead, they at least kept it together enough to end up with three scoring drives, with Chad Ryland hitting a 43-yard field goal at one point in a game that ultimately came down to the wire.
That saw the Patriots offense wake back up while scoring 17 points for the first time since their 24-17 loss to Miami in Week two.
It wasn’t all perfect. Jones threw an ill-advised interception to Hunter Henry late in the second quarter, which saw him flushed out of the pocket while making a bad throw as he was rolling to his right. He had Henry wide open, but Jones fell back into the bad habits that plagued him when he didn’t square his shoulders as he threw the football.
That saw the ball sail back to the left and past Henry into the hands of Raiders safety Tre’von Moehrig, who came up with the turnover.
“On that play, just wasn’t a good throw,” said Belichick on Monday when asked about the play. “He scrambled out of the pocket, Hunter was open, and just didn’t make a good throw. I think he’s more than capable of making that.”
Some also look at the pass in the fourth quarter to Ty Montgomery during what ended up being a 17-play, 75-yard drive and say Jones should have been picked off. However, that was another throw where Jones stepped into the pass and put enough zip on it where it buzzed through the fingertips of linebacker Robert Spillane and into the hands of Montgomery, who made the reception and picked up the first down.
They finished that drive off with the 1-yard touchdown run by Rhamondre Stevenson, which cut the lead to 19-17 with 3:33 left to play, but that would be their final scoring play of the afternoon.
However, aside from that lone first-half turnover, Jones finally managed a pretty good effort, especially in the second half. He missed just three passes over the final two quarters of play, finishing 16-of-19 (84.2%) for 103 yards while missing just two throws for the entire fourth quarter.
One of those was obviously the disappointing drop by DeVante Parker, with the veteran failing to come up with a deep ball that would have potentially given them a shot at getting into field goal range.
Instead, pinned deep in their own end, that missed opportunity cost them dearly as the Raiders ultimately crashed in on them one play later following a delay of game penalty for the safety, which sealed it for Las Vegas.
After the game, Jones obviously wasn’t happy with the outcome but it’s the most productive outing we’ve seen in weeks from the third-year quarterback. The one thing he did say after the game is that they continue to remain united, despite the fact things haven’t obviously gone their way to this point and they’ll watch the film and get back to work.
“I know we’re all working really hard,” said Jones during his post-game press conference. “We all really care for each other, and we have a good group of guys. So, I know it’s frustrating for everybody. We’re the most frustrated there can be, so just have to watch the film with truthful eyes. That’s what I always say.”
2) Parker was obviously asked about his drop after the game, and the responses certainly have a lot of people talking here this morning.
Looking at the play again, Jones made an unbelievable throw as he slid up in the pocket and delivered an absolute dime to Parker as he was streaking up the left sideline and had gotten behind both defenders.
The ball landed right in Parker’s hands, but he couldn’t quite come up with it, with the pass instead slipping through his fingers on a play that would have potentially gotten them out or even beyond midfield.
Instead, the ball hit the turf and the game was over two plays later.
“I don’t know. What did you see?” quipped Parker after the game.
The reporter responded, “it looked like you got behind the coverage, the ball was there,” Parker came back with, “That’s just what happened. I was behind the coverage.”
He was then asked if he got his fingers on the ball, and Parker claimed he thought it hit his fingers, but he couldn’t quite get his full hands on it.
“Probably, through my fingertips, I think,” he said. “But I didn’t get to get a whole full grasp of it.”
When asked if he thought it was a ball he could catch, Parker again wasn’t sure.
“I think so,” he said. “Fingertips … I don’t know.”
While it was obviously a difficult situation for any player to be in, Parker might have won over a few people if he had just said it’s a ball he should have had and that he, unfortunately, didn’t make the play.
Instead, it’s just additional salt in the wound in a game where that play might have given them the opportunity to avoid their third-straight loss, and his lack of accountability only makes it worse.
Sunday was another frustrating afternoon for the Patriots. (PHOTO: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports)
3) It’s going to be tough for the Patriots to make much progress heading into the rest of the season, at least unless things improve along their offensive line.
Sunday saw both Cole Strange and Mike Onwenu sidelined, which led to rookies Atonio Mafi and Sidy Sow each getting the nod at the guard spots, with both Trent Brown and Vederian Lowe anchoring the outside.
The result was another day of breakdowns and jailbreaks, which made it tough for the Patriots to get anything going consistently up front.
The most frustrating part of things wasn’t just the inconsistent protection, it was the untimely penalties. It started on their first offensive series when Lowe was hit with a false start, and Brown would have been flagged on the ensuing play for ineligible downfield pass after getting too far upfield if the Raiders hadn’t blown up their tight end screen.
Instead, that penalty was declined after Jones wisely threw it into the turf. But it ultimately led to a 3rd-and-15 and factored into the Patriots’ first punt.
Their next issues came down the stretch during their 17 play, 9:30 drive in the fourth quarter. After getting down the Las Vegas 3-yard line, Sow was flagged for a false start, which was immediately followed by the offense getting called for an illegal shift after they failed to get set before the snap.
That backed them up to the Las Vegas 13-yard line, putting them in long-yardage in a drive they absolutely needed.
Fortunately, they caught a break when Maxx Crosby got called for roughing the passer, which helped give New England a new set of downs and resulted in the 1-yard touchdown by Stevenson.
But moments like that continue to make things harder than they needed to be. Again, it’s bad enough the protection is poor, but the addition of penalties only further increases the level of difficulty for an offense that hasn’t had an easy time of doing much of anything so far this season.
4) Speaking of penalties, that remains a frustrating topic.
The Patriots were flagged an astounding 10 times for 79 yards on Sunday, one of which saw Henry flagged for an offensive holding penalty that negated a 74-yard touchdown run by Ezekiel Elliott.
That possession came early in the second quarter, with the penalty taking away any momentum they had started to build and instead ended with Chad Ryland’s 43-yard field goal.
That sequence clearly resulted in a massive missed opportunity, and it potentially cost them a shot at getting back into the game and avoiding having to come back from yet another 10-point deficit.
Untimely penalties have been the theme this season, and it was certainly the case on Sunday. The worst part is that five of those ten penalties came in the final quarter of play, which Belichick said after the game is something that is absolutely having an adverse effect on them.
“Yeah, we had penalties to start the game and we had three penalties in the last two minutes,” said Belichick. “So it’s not a good formula. We need to eliminate that.”
5) At 1-5, the next question is going to be how it affects their approach over these final 11 weeks. With both Buffalo and Miami up next, the odds are pretty good that if they falter, it’s probably going to make sense to begin thinking toward the future. Should that happen, the Patriots might have some tough decisions to make.
The obvious candidates will likely come on the offensive side of the ball, with Mike Onwenu’s absence yesterday raising a few eyebrows among those who think he could be a candidate to be moved in the coming weeks.
Other possibilities could potentially be Kendrick Bourne or Hunter Henry, who are each coming to the end of their respective contracts.
With the shifting at quarterback, after Malik Cunningham got a three-year extension, the next question might be whether or not the Patriots could ultimately part ways with Jones midseason, potentially striking a deal with a QB-needy team such as the Raiders, given Jimmy Garoppolo’s injury. That would reunite Jones with McDaniels, who was key in Jones’ success during his rookie season.
It would also reunite him with Jakobi Meyers, who Jones had completed 142 passes for 1494 yards and five touchdowns including the playoffs over their two seasons together prior to Meyers’ departure to Las Vegas this offseason.
Meyers hauled in 5 passes for 61 yards including a touchdown on Sunday against his former team.
Other potential trade options on defense could potentially be Kyle Dugger if the two sides aren’t close on an extension, as well as maybe even Jack Jones if all is not necessarily perfect between the two parties.
But as it currently stands, it would be surprising if some sort of a move didn’t come to fruition, regardless of how disappointing it might be.
With a lot of football still left, the Patriots are in uncharted territory sitting with their worst start since 1995. How things look 11 weeks from now will certainly be interesting, albeit, unpleasant may be a better term to use by the time we get there.
Posted Under: Patriots Commentary