FOXBOROUGH – The Patriots are probably thankful that it was raining all game long. It makes for a better reason for losing than “they were probably tanking”.
In one of the ugliest games in recent memory, the Los Angeles Chargers somehow beat the Patriots 6-0 on Sunday afternoon at Gillette Stadium. The Chargers have to be arguably the worst coached team in the league, as nearly everyone except the coach himself has Brandon Staley gone by year’s end. The Chargers are perhaps more of a mess than the Patriots are, as they have lots more talent, especially on offense, but could only score two field goals against a woebegone team which is obviously focused on draft position in April.
Staley has had some testy press conferences this year, but only he himself has any confidence in his ability to coach. With Justin Herbert as your quarterback, Austin Ekeler as your featured running back and Keenan Allen as your top wideout, that right there should have been enough to win the game 30-0 or something like that.
Enough about the Chargers. The Patriots perhaps have a better future than they do.
The present for the Patriots is still untenable. They have absolutely no offense whatsoever. What is the defense supposed to think when they give up only 10 points last week at the Giants and only 6 points today against the Chargers and the Patriots lose both games? You think that the defense cannot survive the losses of Matthew Judon and Christian Gonzalez, but they have done mostly very well this year. It’s just that the Patriots cannot score, and that has been the narrative for most, if not all, of this regrettable transition year.
They can perhaps blame their second home shutout of the year on the bad weather. Bailey Zappe started at quarterback and played the entire game. He had no interceptions, but he was sacked five times for minus-32 yards. The game was played in a driving rainstorm, so one could make the case that “Well, if the weather had been good, less balls would have been dropped and Zappe might have been more accurate.”
Sorry, but we aren’t quite buying that story. At least not all of it.
If this game doesn’t convince you that Zappe is also not the starting quarterback of the future for the Patriots, you really have a terrific pair of rose colored glasses. Or you truly believe that it was all about the driving rain.
In the first half, all but two drives were three and out. The best drive of the first half, the second possession, went 54 yards in 13 plays and ate up half a quarter of playing time. But the drive ended when Rhamondre Stevenson coughed up the ball on a play where he simply lost his grip on a slippery ball. On that same play, Stevenson suffered an ankle sprain and did not return, and Ezekiel Elliott was the running back for the rest of the game.
In the second half, the Patriots had the ball four times. The good news is that none of these drives were three and out. The bad news is that the drives ended in punt, punt, downs and downs. The best play of the game was a 39-yard left end jet sweep run by Tyquan Thornton on the penultimate drive of the game. Thornton was able to show off his skill set because it did not require him to catch the ball. But the drive ended on downs when Zappe was sacked on both third and fourth down.
When all was said and done, the Patriots improved their chances of getting the top draft pick next year as Arizona was able to beat Pittsburgh in a weather-delayed game. Right now, it looks like only Carolina is standing between the Patriots and the title of Worst Team in the NFL. It looks more like how it did in 1993 when the 2-14 Patriots had to decide on either Drew Bledsoe or Rick Mirer as their next quarterback.
Zappe was 13 of 25 for 141 yards and a rating of 68.9. Elliott had 52 yards rushing on 17 carries for a 3.1 per carry average. Elliott and Devante Parker each had four catches, and Parker had 64 total receiving yards.
The defense must be bristling every time they see stats like this. Herbert was 22 of 37 passing for 212 yards and a 75.5 average. As a team, Charger running backs rushed for 29 yards on 24 carries and a 1.2 per carry average. Allen and Quentin Johnston each had five catches for 110 combined yards. And the Patriots still lost. Wonder if any of the defensive players would consider going to Bill Belichick and ask if they can play both ways.
The Patriots have a short week, as they have to travel to Pittsburgh for a Thursday night game. The Steelers lost quarterback Kenny Pickett and were hamstrung on offense with Mitchell Trubisky. However, the way the Patriots are right now, you could put in Tom Brady and put in Zack Wilson’s doppelganger for the Steelers and the Patriots probably look the same as they have in the last two weeks.
It’s not fun. If you were one of the fans who went to Gillette Stadium today and withstood both the weather and hideous offensive football, our compliments to you. You are good hardy New England stock. It’s also perhaps very masochistic.
Meanwhile, did any of you watch the Pac-12 championship game Friday night and look at both the Oregon and Washington quarterbacks and say to yourself “Which one will be the next Patriot quarterback?” Oregon’s Bo Nix and Washington’s Michael Penix Jr. will both be gone by the fifth pick. Just saying.
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