Good thing the Patriots got to play the Jets in Week 2, because they’ve been largely un-Patriot-like to start the 2021 season. And at some point, you have to ask what’s going on with the coaching.
Because make no mistake, an error like they made late in Sunday’s loss to the New Orleans Saints is entirely about coaching. If you were wondering why it seemed so easy for Taysom Hill to gallop into the end zone for a game-sealing touchdown late in the fourth quarter, it’s because the Patriots had only 10 players on the field. In case you’re wondering, you’re allowed to have 11 guys on the field on every play.
Here’s the play, via NESN’s Zack Cox. As you can see, Patriots linebacker Chase Winovich is seen trying to run on the field just before the snap.
As @BobSocci noted on @Toucherandrich, the Patriots only had 10 men on the field on Taysom Hill’s game-sealing TD run.— Zack Cox (@ZackCoxNESN) September 27, 2021
Pats did a full line change before that play. Not sure who was at fault, but you can see Chase Winovich try to sprint onto the field just before the snap. pic.twitter.com/pKKxMolx8m
So, guess people are just going to heap all the blame on Winovich for this. But if the Patriots’ coaches were on top of everything, Winovich wouldn’t make this mistake in the first place. It’s the kind of blunder you never see from the Patriots, the kind we’d make fun of dumpster fires like the Jets for doing.
This is about coaching and preparation. And it’s clear from the Patriots’ two losses that the coaching and preparation has not been at a level we’re used to seeing.
Procedural penalties. Missed assignments. Bad ball security. That’s the mark of a poorly coached team. It’s early and the Patriots’ season is obviously far from over, and there’s plenty of time to get things right. But three weeks in, as it stands, it’s clear that the coaching needs to be better in addition to the playing.
“Today we were inconsistent in every area,” said head coach Bill Belichick after the game. “We’ve just got to do a better job. Go back and look at the film, make some corrections. Obviously, New Orleans has a good defense, but we’ve got to move the ball better than we did today. Play better in the defense. Play better in the kicking game.”
The Patriots have at least whittled down the penalties, going from eight in Week 1 to six in Week 2 to four on Sunday. But at least one of the flags against the Saints was a killer: Hunter Henry (and what looked like several others) took off too early on a fourth-and-1 play, committing a false start penalty that forced the Pats to settle for a field goal.
Hunter Henry was flagged for this false start late in the second quarter, but there are four or five Patriots who probably could’ve been penalized here. Looked like Mac Jones was expecting the ball to be snapped. pic.twitter.com/aOwZAa6IFP— Phil Perry (@PhilAPerry) September 27, 2021
New England came into the season looking like the offensive line would be its best unit, but three games in, it’s arguably been their worst. They’ve allowed Mac Jones to be hit 22 times and sacked six times, and they’re also gaining only 3.9 yards per carry in the run game (20th). Much of their struggles against pressure have come from schemed plays like stunts and designed blitzes, as opposed to just getting beat straight-up.
Even the special teams units have not looked like their usual selves, despite having All-Pros on the roster. The Patriots have allowed the most yards per punt return in the NFL (16.3) and the ninth-most yards per kick return (22.2). Punter Jake Bailey, who also handles kickoffs, has been penalized for kicking the ball out of bounds twice. The Saints blocked a punt on Sunday, due to what appeared to be a miscommunication between Kyle Dugger and Brandon King.
On the blocked punt, a miscommunication between Kyle Dugger and Brandon King let the rusher in virtually untouched. pic.twitter.com/K9axBsfYq4— Chris Mason (@ByChrisMason) September 27, 2021
What is the deal with all the miscommunication? Something is getting crossed up between the coaches and players, and it’s unclear where it’s originating or why it’s happening. But it’s happening, and at a much higher rate than Patriots fans have been accustomed to seeing from their team over the years. It’s alarming.
Something that’s flown under the radar amid massive roster turnover: the Patriots’ coaching staff has been rebuilding, too. Since 2018, they’ve lost Dante Scarnecchia, Brian Flores, Joe Judge, Jerry Schuplinski, Brendan Daley, Josh Boyer, Bret Bielema, Cole Popovich, and Ernie Adams. Former Director of Player Personnel Nick Caserio, who left after 2020 to become the Houston Texans’ GM, also helped with coaching during his time in New England.
Meanwhile, quality control/quarterbacks coach Bo Hardegree is in his first season in New England. Offensive line coach Carmen Bricillo is in his third, while assistant O-line coach Billy Yates is in his first. Defensive line coach DeMarcus Covington is in his second. Steve Belichick has been coaching the outside linebackers for two years. Brian Belichick is in his second season as the safeties coach. Matt Patricia returned to the team after two seasons as the Lions’ head coach and is in his first year as Senior Football Advisor.
Just like the players, perhaps this is also a group that needs time to gel. Again, plenty of time to correct whatever the problem is. But it’s fair to note that the problems exist, and wonder why.
Bob Socci, the voice of the Patriots on 98.5 The Sports Hub, pointed out the mistake during an interview with Toucher and Rich on Monday morning. You can listen to the full conversation below.
Matt Dolloff is a writer and podcaster 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? Yell at him on Twitter @mattdolloff and follow him on Instagram @mattydsays. You can also email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.