By Alex Barth, 985TheSportsHub.com
The Patriots showed some much needed signs of life on Sunday in Buffalo, but was it too late? Despite their most potent offensive performance in more than a month, poor situational football halted their momentum too many times in a 24-21 loss.
Still caught up in the drama of the end, or the shock of a 2-5 Patriots team? Here’s some of the little things you may have missed…
1. The Patriots are 2-5 for the first time under Bill Belichick. Their best finish from a 2-5 start is six wins, which they reached in 1971 (when there was a 14-game season) and 1995 (6-10). Since 2010, 40 teams have started 2-5 with only four making the playoffs (most recently the 2015 Chiefs). With the expanded playoffs this season, the Patriots aren’t done quite yet.
2. This is the Patriots’ first four-game losing streak since 2002, and the 26th in franchise history. Next week, they’ll look to avoid their first five-game losing streak since 1995.
3. One thing the Patriots had going for them (until the end) on Sunday? They did a much better job taking care of the football – something both players and coaches talked at length about during the week. We saw a turnover-free first half for the first time since Week 2 in Seattle, and the team was 31 seconds away from their first turnover-free game of the year. It was their first non-multi turnover game since Week 3 against the Raiders. Of course though, the one turnover did come at the most inopportune time.
4. Stylistically, the game played out as advertised. The two teams ran the ball a combined 72 times, almost double the 42 combined passes.
5. Did anybody walk away from that game impressed with the Bills? Nothing on the field Sunday told me that team should be considered among the AFC elite, and certainly not that Josh Allen belongs in the MVP conversation. They’ll probably win the division, but they’re miles away from teams like the Steelers and Chiefs.
6. Damien Harris recorded his first career touchdown yesterday (he actually had two). He is the 341st player to score a touchdown for the Patriots franchise, and the 383rd to record a point in franchise history.
7. Jakobi Meyers had a solid game on Sunday, but it could have been better if not for two big plays wiped out by penalties. He had 17-yard and 14-yard catches taken away due to flags. If you add those on to his totals, his final stat line would be eight catches for 89 yards. That would tie the most catches in a game for a Patriots this season and the yardage would be the second-highest total, only behind Julian Edelman’s 179 yard performance against Seattle.
8. After getting to watch Jakobi Meyers run a string of plays together on Sunday, it’s clear why the Patriots value him highly. He’s a true technician at the wide receiver position. Every movement he makes, every step, shoulder turn, etc. is done with purpose. There’s no wasted movement or energy, everything is precise and to a tee. We hear a lot about players who are supreme athletes but don’t necessarily have a ton of raw skill because they’ve been able to get by on what they can do physically. Meyers is the antithesis of that.
9. As Scott Zolak pointed out on the 98.5 The Sports Hub broadcast, the Patriots left themselves exposed up the middle on the Josh Allen QB draw touchdown late in the game. Ja’Whaun Bentley, who usually lines up in the middle of the defense, moved to the left edge. It’s tough to tell if that was a coaching decision or an on-the-fly adjustment by Bentley, but it was an odd decision with the Bills in a five-wide set.
10. Cam Newton threw to the right side early (it was a design on the first play) and often. Based on the NFL chart, he threw eight balls to his right, eight to the middle of the field, and seven to his left. For a Patriots offense that has been locked into being pretty one-dimensional in recent weeks, diversity in any sense is good. We’ll see if this is a trend or just a one week thing.
11. Jake Bailey recorded his first touchback of the season on Sunday – he’d previously had the most punts in the NFL without one. He still has a 12:1 inside 20:touchhback ratio, which is tied for the league lead. His 45 net yards per punt is second in the NFL.
12. The Patriots were uncharacteristically undisciplined on Sunday. They took a season-high five penalties totaling 35 yards. There were also some personnel miscommunications resulting in burnt time outs, and the team playing the first scrimmage snap of the second half with just 10 players on the field. They’re still one of the least-penalized teams in the NFL, so the hope is that was just a blip and not a sign of things to come.
13. One of those penalties on the Patriots was a neutral zone infraction by Devin McCourty. There’s things going back, then there’s “deep safety going offsides” bad. It’s the first line of scrimmage penalty (offsides/encroachment/neutral zone infraction) called on McCourty in his 10-year career.
14. There were three active, healthy players who didn’t get in the game for the Patriots yesterday. Backup quarterback Jarrett Stidham and backup center James Ferentz aren’t big surprises, but running back J.J. Taylor being a DNP does stand out a bit. He was a healthy scratch the last two weeks, and hasn’t seen the field since Damien Harris returned. The Patriots customarily take things slow with rookie running backs, so it’s not completely out of character, but usually every player is on the gameday roster with purpose, even in a special teams role.
15. New England’s already-struggling run defense took two major blows yesterday, and Lawrence Guy and Ja’Whaun Bentley both left the game with injuries. Guy is the closest thing the Patriots have to a nose tackle right now. He left the game with a shoulder injury and didn’t return. The Patriots will need Beau Allen, who started practicing last week but hasn’t yet been activated from IR, to fill in. Meanwhile, Bentley left late with a groin injury. He is the only linebacker to play more than 50 percent of the team’s defensive snaps this year.
16. Heading into their Monday Night Football matchup with the Jets, the Patriots have the most non-Sunday regular season wins (40) and best winning percentage (76.9 percent) in the NFL since 2000.
Alex Barth is a writer and 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. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Looking for a podcast guest? Let him know on Twitter @RealAlexBarth or via email at Alexander.Barth@bbgi.com.