The New England Patriots’ ups and downs should be treated like a stock market as it has. It won’t be down forever. It’s clearly going to get better than it was in Detroit on Sunday night. But now may be a good time to invest. Because after the Patriots’ grisly 26-10 mauling at the hands of the Lions, they’d be hard-pressed for their stock to get any lower than it has.
Tom Brady is essentially exempt from the “Rise & Fall” weekly exercise. At the end of the day, he is the Patriots’ stock and the team often goes as his performance does regardless of who’s around him. But if he were to be included on this list, Brady would most certainly land squarely among the “falling” players.
Sunday night showed that this year’s version of the Patriots can’t overcome a bad night for the quarterback.
Brady finished with just 133 passing yards, his lowest output since a 24-16 loss to the Broncos on Oct. 27, 2002. His 65.1 passer rating on the night was his worst since a 12-0 loss to the Cowboys on Nov. 16, 2003. He lost those games against Mike Shanahan and Bill Parcells. So add Matt Patricia to that list.
Brady looked more frustrated as the night went along, culminating in a poor interception on an under-thrown football into double coverage against the dangerous Darius Slay. Brady’s defeated helmet flip by the bench after the pick told the story of the whole game. The relative lack of playmakers on offense is obvious, but all Brady did on Sunday was amplify them.
So in all, a mostly down night for the Patriots that followed up a heavily down day against the Jaguars. This cringeworthy two-game losing streak is sure to sound alarms in the coming days before the Patriots try to bounce back, and they may be excessive this early in the season. But there’s no question that Sunday night’s game was a particularly unacceptable free-fall for a lot of stockholders on the Patriots’ roster.
Rising: Stephon Gilmore
For the second straight week, Gilmore was arguably the only good player on the Patriots defense.
He did allow the touchdown to Marvin Jones, but that was more Duron Harmon’s mistake for failing to cover his deep zone and leaving Gilmore to chase Jones by himself. Gilmore almost made a great tackle on Kenny Golladay at the goal line, too. But the receiver barely got the ball to break the plane for his touchdown. The defense has its share of problems, but Gilmore is still not one of them.
The Patriots are dealing with key injuries on both the defensive line and the secondary, which could be part of the reason for their subpar performance. The linebackers have no such excuse. This is who the Patriots have to work with.
It appears that none of the linebackers have the speed to consistently cover the short areas of the field. Rookie linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley did make an interception and three tackles, but his lack of quickness in space shows up at times. Dont’a Hightower still looks like he’s lost more than a step. Kyle Van Noy and Elandon Roberts are what they are; if they have to cover quicker running backs or receivers they can be burned. Linebacker speed/athleticism was arguably the Patriots’ biggest need in the offseason, and it appears that they didn’t do nearly enough to address it.
Rising: James White
It sounded after the game like Brady was lobbying for the Patriots to get White involved more in the offense. Speaking about the running back’s touchdown, he said “Guys who can make plays, those are the ones who should be involved.”
He’s implying that White, who virtually split snaps with Michel 25-23, is much closer to a reliable playmaker for the Patriots right now. He gained a respectable 51 yards on his seven touches, including 37 yards on four carries (9.25-yard average). His touchdown was the only moment in the game where the Patriots felt like they had any life. White simply needs to see the field more until Michel proves he can be a more dependable weapon.
Falling: Sony Michel
The rookie running back played 23 offensive snaps, and touched the ball on 15 of them. He had two other targets as a receiver, and you could argue he dropped both. The Patriots are still trying their hardest to feed Michel the ball and get him going, and it somehow got worse in Detroit than it did in Jacksonville. The offensive line gets an “honorable mention” for some inconsistent run-blocking as well, but the rookie has failed to make a real impact despite plenty of opportunities so far.
Ten of Michel’s 14 carries went for three yards or fewer. Most glaringly, they handed him the ball on three different third-and-1 plays. In those situations they went 1-for-3 converting, and Michel rushed for a grand total of -1 yard. Michel looks like he needs more time before he can be counted on to produce like the Patriots are right now.
Falling: Josh McDaniels
McDaniels’ play-calling wasn’t at its best against the Jaguars, but it still felt like he simply had trouble solving an elite defense. The Lions have some talent on their defense, but they’re certainly not elite. Somehow, the Patriots’ offense looked even worse than Week 2, and McDaniels wasn’t helping. As futile as Michel looked on two of his third-and-1 plays, where he got blown up for -3 yards, McDaniels deserves the most scrutiny for his decision to put the ball in the rookie’s hands in the first place.
Rising: Deatrich Wise
The second-year defensive end out of Arkansas played just 31 snaps (42 percent) against the Lions. But he still logged a sack and made three tackles for a total of two yards, including one tackle for a loss. Wise may still have trouble setting the edge, but it’s surprising that he didn’t play more when the Patriots were missing Trey Flowers and needed playmaking up front.
Wise isn’t a perfect player right now, but has made a relatively high percentage of positive plays relative to his snap counts.
Falling: Wide Receivers
After establishing himself as a reliable complementary piece in the first two games of the season, Phillip Dorsett threw up a goose-egg against the Lions. He played 45 snaps, got just five targets and caught none of them. It didn’t get much better for Chris Hogan, who did catch the ball but only three times for 31 yards.
The most egregious mistake for the Patriots’ receivers came from Patterson, who was nowhere near where Brady expected him to be on the quarterback’s demoralizing, uncharacteristic intentional grounding penalty. The Patriots offense may not always be super-talented, but it has to be in sync for it to work. Brady and the offense are certainly not totally on the same page right now.
Next “Rise & Fall” comes after the Patriots face the Dolphins in Foxboro in Week 4. Shudder to think of what it may look like if they drop off any more than they just did in Detroit.
— By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
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.