Nine weeks into the season, and the Patriots are 2-7 and truthfully playing like one of the worst teams in the NFL. Bad penalties, a rash of injuries, a lack of attention to detail, poor situational football, and the lack of a clutch gene have them teetering on the edge of the precipice.
There is no longer an even outside hope of a miracle finish to bring them at least playoff hopefuls. They are, with eight games to go, playing for pride… and jobs. To be as badly outplayed by a team that has already signaled that it is tanking shows the depths that the 2023 team has fallen.
And the cracks are already starting to show in the locker room. We’ll delve into that more below. Washington won by three points on a late dropped pass/interception when, in reality, they probably should have never been in that position and won by more, which also speaks to their own situation. However, I digress.
So, here are our grades this week for the Patriots-Commanders game.
Mac Jones could only squat down and hold his head. That final play was a microcosm of a terrible season that still has eight games to go. The suffering is far from complete. But any hope of salvaging any hope this season evaporated with that final interception. They lost to a team that is tanking… Yikes.
The game started off well enough. The offense moved the ball, picking up a couple of first downs on the opening drive, but Jones missed a wide-open Tyquan Thornton on 4th and 3 from the Washington 39. In the 2nd quarter, he threw a really nice pass to Hunter Henry in the endzone for a 14-yard touchdown.
Jones also missed a wide-open Rhamondre Stevenson on a wheel route because he threw a mortar shot off his back foot that took forever to come down. The play was broken up. But he wasn’t helped by his players either. He threw a perfect dime down the field to Jalen Reagor, who dropped it, which brings us to the final play.
I totally disagree with Jonathan Vilma, who, on the telecast, said that Jones should have thrown the ball away and protect the football. There were only 38 seconds to go, and the team faced a 2nd and 8 at Washington’s 41-yard line. From there, it is a 59-yard field goal. They needed to make a play. Jones delivered it perfectly, and Smith-Schuster didn’t just drop it; it bounced into the air for a gift INT.
Jones finished 24-44 for 220 yards with one TD and a pick. Against a bad defensive team like Washington, that was not what was expected…or needed.
Running Backs: B
The Patriots’ running game gained 107 yards on 19 carries, which works out to a 5.5-yard average. But keep in mind that Washington allowed an average of 117 yards per game, which is 10 yards less than average.
Rhamondre Stevenson had a 64-yard TD run, which was a fantastic play all around. The OL opened a huge seam for Stevenson to hit the second level. He got an excellent block from Reagor, and he was gone. He finished with 87 yards on nine carries (9.7-yard average). Stevenson added 42 yards on four catches. He’s resembling the back of last year, which is a good thing.
Ezekiel Elliott added 17 yards rushing on six carries and 15 yards receiving on three catches. The backs were a bright spot on a dismal day.
Wide Receivers: F
Kendrick Bourne and DeVante Parker were out, but the unit, with the exception of Demario Douglas, didn’t step up to take the opportunity that was before them. Smith-Schuster had a perfect opportunity to assert himself and, for the most part, was having a solid day. He caught six passes for 51 yards on seven targets. The seventh was the drop/interception.
Jalen Reagor was targeted six times and caught just one pass for 11 yards. But he played defender on one poor pass to break it up. He also helped spring Stevenson on his TD run.
Thornton caught one pass for 7 yards on four targets. He ran a horrible route in the 2nd quarter that was painful to watch. After the game, he said that his foot injury was the cause of the route-running.
Douglas, however, was a rare bright spot. He’s relishing his snaps and opportunities, and it shows. He finished with five catches for 55 yards and just missed a big 23-yard pass from Jones, where the ball hit the turf as he went to the ground.
Tight Ends: C-
The tight ends weren’t a factor on Sunday, other than Hunter Henry. Henry’s numbers were modest (4 catches, 39 yards), but one was a beauty of a TD from Jones from 14 yards out. Henry ran right up the seam and highpoint the ball over the safety. The pass was a perfect dart by Jones.
Pharaoh Brown wasn’t targeted, and Gesicki, surprisingly, was only targeted once but didn’t have a catch. I expected that the TEs may have a big day, but it wasn’t to be.
Offensive Line: B
The offensive line had a decent enough day against Washington. Jones wasn’t sacked and only had one (1) QB hit. And that was without Trent Brown, who has been playing hurt. Connor McDermott, who was a call-up from the PS, did a terrific job holding up in pass protection.
The only QB hit was allowed by Michael Onwenu, but he and Sidi Sow played very well, and it was the pair who unleashed Stevenson on his 64-yard TD. The OL has taken a lot of criticism this season. And deservedly so. But the group stepped up and played well on Sunday.
Defensive Line: B-
The defensive line really tightened up the run defense in the second half and was able to stuff Washington to help the offense have chance after chance to score. But what hurt the grade was the lack of pressure they could bring on Sam Howell, who was averaging getting sacked more than five times each game.
But in the first half, Deatrich Wise seemed out of position when Howell scrambled for 24 yards on 3rd and 23. It was THAT kind of day on third down. However, Wise did notch eight tackles, including a sack, a QB hit, and a TFL.
Christian Barmore had five QB pressures, two QB hits, and two passes batted at the line. It was a good day but not good enough.
Ja’Whaun Bentley was outstanding. He notched 13 tackles, including two sacks, two QB hits, and two TFLs. He was all over the field. Jahlani Tavai’s forced fumble set the Patriots up for their first TD. He also recorded six tackles.
Josh Uche remains a liability in run defense, although the Brian Robinson TD was a bad defensive call on the play. It seemed that both Uche and Wise crashed down on the play. Either Jabrill Peppers was out of position, or there was a miscommunication somewhere. However, it was a Washington TD, and that’s all that matters.
Anfernee Jennings had four tackles but was flagged for an offside call. Keion White, surprisingly, had little production on the afternoon.
The secondary started the game with Jack Jones and J.C. Jackson on the bench. Supposedly, it was for poor play, but this seems like something else brewing in the locker room. Because after the game, both were dressed and out before the media was allowed in. That’s a troubling sign that issues inside the locker room are brewing.
Once they entered the game, neither played well. Howell was targeting Jones in coverage, so there is also that to consider. But Howell was an equal opportunity abuser when it came to the secondary. He used Washington’s speed to torture the Patriots on one long third down after another.
The safeties fared no better, and the tackling, for the most part, was atrocious.
Special Teams: F
The STs’ awful day began with Washington returning the opening kickoff to the 37-yard line. And things kept snowballing from there. Mistakes and penalties kept plaguing the unit. However, rookie punter Bryce Barringer averaged 54.5 yards per punt with one TB and two inside the 20. He had a long punt of 60. Kicker Chad Ryland made his only FG (43 yards) and both extra points.
The killer was late in the game when the Patriots stopped Washington and would have had the ball at the 43-yard line. But Mack Wilson was flagged for lining up offside, one of two penalties on the play, and it gave Washington a first down. When the defense stopped them again, the ensuing punt with another penalty put the Patriots and Jones on the nine-yard line.
Brendan Schooler had a rough day. He was flagged for a face mask penalty on the final punt return, whiffed on a block where Douglas was tackled for a -2 on a punt return, and had another penalty for holding.
This was awful across the board. Some of the calls that the coaches made or failed to make was a head-scratcher. After Stevenson scorched Washington’s defense for the long TD, he seemed to be an afterthought in the play calls. Why, in the Wide World of Sports (not the choice of words that first came to mind), didn’t the team ride the hot hand and allow him to ease the burden on a terrible WR core?
The secondary showed they were unable to negate Washington’s speed advantage. So why didn’t Mayo and the Belichick’s adjust accordingly? Speaking of the Belichicks… didn’t Bill used to terrorize and confuse the heck out of rookie QBs? Ghosts? None were to be seen on Sunday.
Special Teams??? Let’s say that it was terrible from the git-go.
I thought that perhaps the team had hit rock bottom in Miami, but it seems like they’re continuing to dig.
Well, that’s a wrap for Washington. We’re on to Frankfurt, Germany, and the sausages.
Posted Under: Patriots Report Card
Tags: Bill Belichick Bill O'Brien Demario Douglas JuJu Smith-Schuster Mac Jones New England Patriots Rhamondre Stevenson Sam Howell Washington Commanders