By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
Not much to feel good about for the New England Patriots on Sunday. They turned in a dud of a performance for the majority of the game against the Jaguars, who won 31-20 in a game that wasn’t as close as the score indicated.
Most of the issues for the Patriots came on the defensive side of the ball. There’s not much to glean from that game that would leave you feeling encouraged. The offense, at least, had some minor bright spots. At the end of the day, 20 points on the road against an elite defense could’ve been enough for Tom Brady & Co. to grind out a win on most days.
This was not most days. After a promising Week 1 against the Texans, the defense had no answer for Blake Bortles (has that ever been said before?) and their performance ultimately doomed them in the end. Most players took a step back, but you can conveniently group them together in certain cases.
So with that in mind, here’s a look at whose stock is up or down for the Patriots after Sunday’s loss. It feels appropriate to start with one of the downs.
Falling: Pass rush
There’s no one guy to blame here. The Patriots’ pass rushers were virtually nonexistent across the board, especially after losing Trey Flowers to a concussion. But even before his injury, Bortles and the Jaguars were moving the ball. Bortles had a clean pocket on the vast majority of snaps. Just about any quarterback could shred the Patriots with the time and comfort that Bortles had.
It was important to temper expectations after the performance of the Patriots’ pass rush against the Texans, because they were going up against arguably the worst offensive line in the NFL. They’ll need to step up against better competition in order to prove that they’re markedly improved upon last season.
Rising: Stephon Gilmore
Sunday’s loss showed just how important Gilmore is to the Patriots secondary. He wasn’t perfect – he couldn’t knock the ball loose on a great touchdown throw-and-catch from Bortles to Donte Moncrief – but he was also the only defensive back who made any big plays. His forced fumble on Jaguars receiver DJ Chark momentarily shifted momentum in the Patriots’ favor, and he made a big third-down stop on a scrambling Bortles to get the ball back to Brady. There’s not much to like about the defense on Sunday, but Gilmore showed that they have at least one playmaker.
Falling: Eric Rowe
Hopefully, No. 2 corner isn’t a long-term issue for the Patriots. Bill Belichick had an exceptionally quick hook for Rowe after the Jaguars’ Keelan Cole torched him early on. Just 17 snaps for Rowe, compared to 56 for Jonathan Jones and 53 for Jason McCourty. Rowe is being singled out here, when the whole depth chart behind Gilmore is the real question mark. But he simply has to be better moving forward, because this defense can’t afford to have a revolving door of inconsistency opposite Gilmore.
Rising: Chris Hogan
Not a spectacular day overall and his second touchdown was effectively in garbage time. But three catches for 42 yards and a pair of scores is a big step up for Hogan after a one-catch performance in Week 1. He’s still not a true No. 1 receiver, but Hogan did beat Jalen Ramsey straight-up on his first touchdown. He’ll need to turn in two more games like that before Julian Edelman comes back.
Falling: Cordarrelle Patterson
In a game filled with ugly missteps, Patterson literally made the most egregious one. He slipped and fell after catching a wide-open screen, when he had a nice cushion in front of him needing only six yards for a first down. The Patriots elected to kick a field goal instead of going for it on 4th-and-6. That decision is up for debate, but it only had to be made because of Patterson slipping on a banana peel. It’s clear that Patterson can’t be relied upon as even a No. 3 receiver right now, when he can’t even be depended on to run a simple screen properly.
Rising: James White
White led the Patriots with seven catches, three of them on third down. He broke off a nice 28-yard catch-and-run after making a great cut to the inside, at a time where the Patriots felt like they were gaining momentum and mounting a comeback. When things are going tough, Brady at least knows he has one guy he can depend on to make plays. Receiver may be an issue, but pass-catching running back is not.
Falling: Special Teams (besides Ryan Allen)
The punter didn’t mess up. Stephen Gostkowski, meanwhile, missed an early 54-yard field goal. It admittedly was no gimme, but the kick itself wasn’t even close. Gostkowski also booted a kickoff too far when the Patriots were kicking from the 50-yard line with a chance to really pin the Jaguars back. Instead, they got a touchback.
Another bad mistake on special teams came from the punting unit up front, when the Jaguars jumped offside and the Pats … did nothing about it. All they had to do was jump forward or make contact with the offending player and it would’ve been a gift first down. Special teamer Brandon King was closest to making that play, and Belichick let him know how irate he was that he didn’t draw the easy flag. The officials could have flagged the Jags for offside anyway, but they missed their chance to leave nothing up to their discretion.
The Patriots have a lot of things to correct moving forward, but they also ran into a very good, motivated team on their home field. It’s unlikely that Matt Patricia’s 0-2 Detroit Lions bring remotely the same level of challenge in Week 3.
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.