How is this Patriots season more than half over? It feels like they opened the season with a loss in Miami a month ago, where the offensive game plan seemed built around Mac Jones throwing 50-50 balls.
Nine games in and, well, Matt Patricia’s offensive game plans are still in the works. When coach Bill Belichick admitted Tuesday that the back two opposing defenses were challenging some plays for the Patriots, it came as more of a relief than a shock.
It turns out that the first step to improving an offense isn’t better blocking or smarter quarterback play, it’s Not to wire your intentions to those trying to stop you. who knew
Yes, it was an odd 9/17 of a season. Matching their 5-4 record at the start of bye week, there were some good and some bad.
The Good: Rhamondre Stevenson turned out to be a spectacular three-down running back. Matthew Judon channels the climax Andre Tippett. The rookie class was excellent, despite some new banking in the game from first-round pick Cole Strange.
The Bad: A variety of factors led to Jones’ regression in its second season. Patricia struggles to make the most of skilled players like Hunter Henry and occasional kennel dweller Kendrick Bourne. And with 17 turnovers, the second-highest in the league, they’ve failed to properly protect football.
All in all, this made for a season that has been moderately encouraging so far, but hardly exciting. That may change with matchups with the Vikings, Bengals, and a pair with the Bills to come, but so far this season has been about as fun as a “The Office” Season 8 rerun. You know there will be some laughs and some good times, but it’s not what it used to be.
For esports, here’s a ranking of the nine Patriots games based on entertainment value, from worst to best. Even when extra weight was given to wins, they were surprisingly hard to pin down…
Week 1: Dolphins 20, Patriots 7 — Quick, who scored the Patriots’ first touchdown of the season? If you said to Ty Montgomery, well done, your memory is clearer than mine. His 6-yard touchdown catch came in the third quarter when the Patriots were already 17-0 down in a game that foreshadowed some of their ongoing troubles. The promising first possession of the season stuttered when Jones intercepted DeVante Parker on an alley-oop in the end zone, and offensive line play was patchy at best as Trent Brown and Strange missed a submission that resulted in a Brandon Jones strip sack and Melvin Ingram fumble recovery for a touchdown.
Week 9: Patriots 26, Colts 3 — No deep infusion needed here, right? We watched this movie just a few days ago, and as impressive as Judon, Josh Uche and the pass rush from hell was his nine-sack performance against the not-ready-for-1pm-Sunday-let alone- Prime-time quarterback Sam Ehlinger was a stroke the entire game, with Jones (147 passing yards) still looking for his first above-average performance of the season.
Week 7: Bears 33, Patriots 14 – That was entertaining, I suppose. Just the wrong way. It was more of a spectacle than a football game. Belichick waited until game time to reveal his starter, walking with Jones and then drawing him for Bailey Zappe after a terrible second-quarter interception. The switcheroo calmed down a crowd at Gillette Stadium, who kept chanting the backup’s name early in the game, but it wasn’t the nicest way to welcome Jones after his injury. Zappe had a few sparks of magic early on, but the Bears — who were averaging 15.5 points per game — scored the last 23 points, with their sophomore quarterback Justin Fields edging through the Patriots’ defense for 82 of the Bears’ 246 meandering rustling courtyards.
Week 2: Patriots 17, Steelers 14 – I don’t recall this one — the rare “must-win” of Week 2 of the Belichick era — being that close, probably because Mitchell Trubisky and the Steelers offense could only muster 243 yards. But the Patriots secured the win only after a 5-yard run by Damien Harris in third and third place by 1 minute and 38 seconds. It’s fair to say that this will stand as the best game Nelson Agholor will have in a Patriots uniform. He hit all six of his goals for 110 yards and a spectacular 44-yard touchdown reception just before halftime.
Week 3: Ravens 37, Patriots 26 — No, not the result you are looking for, but it was one entertaining game, and there was hope for a while in the Patriots’ home opener. They were only 14-13 down at half-time before things got, oh, let’s call it chaotic. Arguably the most electrifying player in the league, Lamar Jackson turned up the juice in the second half, finishing the game with four passing touchdowns, one rushing touchdown and 325 total yards. The Patriots totaled 447 yards, still their highest performance of the season, but three of their final drives ended in Jones interceptions … and then he injured his ankle late in the fourth quarter and plunged his season into — yes — chaos.
Week 8: Patriots 22, Jets 17 – The JETS suffered their 13th straight loss to the Patriots, and for Jets fans whose spelling repertoire is limited to one word, that’s where I spell “loss.” Glad that I can help. To be honest, your talented young team is making Patriots fans a bit nervous about the Week 11 rematch. Sure, that was a satisfying win for the Patriots — any victories over the Jets are especially satisfying for Belichick — but The Trail wasn’t exactly an exciting ride. Kicker Nick Folk saved some stuttered drives with five field goals, the Patriots used Zach Wilson’s here-you-take-it approach to quarterback, and a Jets penalty erased an 84-yard pick-6 by Michael Carter that changes that would have tenor of the game.
Week 4: Packers 27, Patriots 24 (OT) — Hey, remember when we thought the Packers were good? Though he blew a 24-17 lead in the fourth quarter and lost in overtime to a 31-yard field goal from Mason Crosby, it felt like a real morale win at the time. After Jones was out in the first quarter and Brian Hoyer out with a concussion, rookie fourth-round pick Zappe came in and started a quarterback controversy. He played with composure while completing 10 of 15 passes for a modest 99 yards. It was great fun tormenting Aaron Rodgers from defense in the first half. The Patriots held him on four completions before the break, with rookie Jack Jones picking up a pass just before halftime and taking him 40 yards for a touchdown. However, the Packers have lost five straight games since that game, making this moral victory a bit of a what-if.
Week 5: Patriots 29, Lions 0 — That the Patriots would easily win seems obvious in hindsight. And I doubt many, if any, of us thought Lions coach Dan Campbell was ready for a duel with Belichick, given that Belichick is playing chess for tactical reasons while Campbell is playing… I don’t know, WWE 2K22 or something. But it’s worth remembering that there was real excitement in this game. The Lions averaged 35 points per game. Zappe made his first start. And at 1-3, the Patriots couldn’t afford to miss this one. They certainly didn’t, as Lions quarterback Jared Goff looked just as confused as the Rams quarterback did in Super Bowl LIII, and Stevenson broke out with 161 rushing yards on 25 carries, both career highs.
Week 6: Patriots 38, Browns 15 — Why is this the most entertaining and satisfying Patriots game of the season so far? Let’s count the paths. Even skeptics got Zappe fever after the rookie QB completed 24 of 34 passes for 309 yards — still a season-high among Patriots quarterbacks — and two touchdowns to lead the Patriots to a second straight win. The defense picked up two passes and recovered a few fumbles while limiting NFL lead rusher Nick Chubb to 56 yards on 12 carries. Rising star Stevenson proved to be the most impressive running back on the field, rushing for 76 hard-fought yards and two touchdowns on 19 tries. What else? Oh, and rookie receiver Tyquan Thornton hit a receiving touchdown and a rushing touchdown, the latter a 19-yard burst that almost guaranteed the win in the fourth quarter. All in all it was quite a day. The best they’ve had this season.
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