New England Patriots

New England Patriots

Nov 26, 2023; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; New England Patriots place kicker Chad Ryland (37) reacts after missing a field goal during the fourth quarter as New York Giants safety Jason Pinnock (27) celebrates at MetLife Stadium. Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The New England Patriots returned from their bye week on Sunday against the New York Giants down in New Jersey. Despite the week off, the team picked up right where it left off.

Sunday was yet another low-scoring, rock fight of a game for this 2023 Patriots team. They brought in the league’s 31st-ranked offense which ranked ahead of only – the Giants. Both teams played the game as such, with points at a premium.

It was the same things that did the Patriots in as well. While the defense did its part the offense struggled and put up just 4.2 yards per play. They turned the ball over three times, with both Giants scores coming off of giveaways.

Despite that, the Patriots were still in the game late. They got the ball at midfield with 3:15 to play in the fourth quarter, needed a field goal to force overtime or a touchdown to win. However they couldn’t escape another one of their year-long issues – special teams. Rookie kicker Chad Ryland missed a 35-yarder in the final seconds to seal the loss.

Now the Patriots sit at 2-9, and are guaranteed their second consecutive losing season. That will draw plenty of big-picture talk about Bill Belichick and his future with the team this week, but before we get to that lets take a look at what stood out on Sunday.

  • Quarterback usage

    EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY - NOVEMBER 26: Mac Jones #10 of the New England Patriots walks off the field during the first half against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium on November 26, 2023 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

    EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY – NOVEMBER 26: Mac Jones #10 of the New England Patriots walks off the field during the first half against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium on November 26, 2023 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

    After keeping their quarterback plans a mystery all week, the Patriots used both Mac Jones and Bailey Zappe in this game. Jones played the first half, with Zappe coming in at halftime and finishing things out.

    Given the way the game went, that felt like a pre-planned schedule. Jones had multiple benchable moments in the first half. He threw two bad interceptions in the first half, a fumble, had a number of other bad misses, plus got in a back-and-forth with tight end Mike Gesicki after a mix-up on second & long backed up near the goal line. Despite all of that the Patriots stuck with him for 30 minutes. He finished the game 12-of-21 for 89 yards with the two picks.

    Zappe didn’t fair much better. His opening drive resulted in a touchdown but of his six passes, four went behind the line of scrimmage and none went beyond the sticks. After that 6-of-6 start (for 38 yards) he was 3-of-8 for 16 yards with an interception. He had a few more potential interceptions dropped as well.

    This came after the Patriots split practice reps evenly between Jones and Zappe this week, which reportedly left receivers needing side sessions to get in the nessesary work with the quarterbacks. The offense certainly reflected that on Sunday with how disjointed things looked at times.

    The disconnect extended as far as when players were told who the starting quarterback would be. Bill Belichick said he told Jones during the week and players during the week, but tight end Hunter Henry said he didn’t know until Sunday morning. Zappe said he didn’t know he was going in for the second half until Bill O’Brien told him in the locker room during the halftime break.

    Belichick wouldn’t get any deeper into the plan. After the game on Sunday he repeated the lines he used so often this week, telling reporters twice when asking about the quarterback usage “I told everybody to be ready to go.”

    This is all setting up for another quarterback battle this upcoming week in practice. Belichick answered a question about next week’s starter after the game by simply saying, “we just finished the game.”

  • Other coaching decisions

    EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY - NOVEMBER 26: Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots looks on during the second half of the game against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium on November 26, 2023 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

    EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY – NOVEMBER 26: Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots looks on during the second half of the game against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium on November 26, 2023 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

    Handling of the quarterback handling wasn’t the only questionable decision made by the coaching staff in this game. There were two other instances that stood out, in terms of how the Patriots managed the game, that were head-scratchers.

    The first came late in the third quarter. Facing a 4th & 1 from their own 39-yard line with the game tied at 7-7, the Patriots lined up to go for it. They shifted in and out of a number of convoluted formations, before taking their first timeout of the second half as the play clock ran down. Out of that timeout, they punted.

    That proved to be costly, as the extra timeout may have helped the Patriots better manage their late-game drive. Going for it would have been a bit risky, but given the way the game was going may have been worth it. Punting was also certainly an option. But calling the timeout just to punt felt like a bit of a white flag in a game that was still winnable.

    Then there was the management of the final drive. Despite their 2-8 record the Patriots played very conservatively, seeming to go all-out for a field goal rather than trying to score a touchdown to win the game. It showed the lack of faith in the quarterback position and offense as a whole, even with the QB switch at halftime.

  • When the ball was on target…

    Nov 26, 2023; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; New England Patriots wide receiver Demario Douglas (81) runs after a catch during the second half against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium. Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

    Nov 26, 2023; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; New England Patriots wide receiver Demario Douglas (81) runs after a catch during the second half against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium. Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

    The Patriots seemed to make a point of rotating as many receivers in and out of the game as they could on Sunday. With that, two players stood out.

    Demario Douglas continues to be a bright spot, catching six of his nine targets for 49 yards. The Patriots made the most of his ability to run after the catch in what was a screen-heavy game. While much of the offense looks like it needs to be reworked, Douglas should be a part of whatever that new offense looks like. Douglas did take a shot to the head on a punt and leave the game late, but told reporters after the game he didn’t suffer a concussion.

    DeVante Parker also stood out in his first game back after missing two weeks with a concussion. He caught three passes for 42 yards, including a 19-yard catch-and-run on a slant in the first half. Despite some route-running miscues, he was the team’s second-best receiver.

    Tyquan Thornton had a bad drop from Mac Jones in the first half, but did make a couple of catch-and-run plays in the second half. He appears to be regaining his role after being benched before the bye.

  • Run game shows up again

    EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY - NOVEMBER 26: Rhamondre Stevenson #38 of the New England Patriots stretches over Jason Pinnock #27 of the New York Giants while scoring a rushing touchdown during the third quarter at MetLife Stadium on November 26, 2023 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

    EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY – NOVEMBER 26: Rhamondre Stevenson #38 of the New England Patriots stretches over Jason Pinnock #27 of the New York Giants while scoring a rushing touchdown during the third quarter at MetLife Stadium on November 26, 2023 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

    In what’s become a theme in the second half for the Patriots, the ground game did its job on offense. The Patriots rushed for over 100 yards for the third consecutive week, and actually produced more net yards (147) than the passing game (136). Rhamondre Stevenson did most of the heavy lifting carrying the ball 21 times for 98 yards and the team’s only touchdown, while Ezekiel Elliott carried the ball nine times for 46 yards.

    The real question is – why didn’t the Patriots’ run the ball more against a Giants defense that came in ranked last against the run, and was without its best run defender in Dexter Lawrence? The Patriots ran the ball 31 times compared to 37 pass plays, despite not needing to pick up chunk yardage or score in bunches. In the game where the quarterback position was already a question mark, the team had the chance to mitigate that more with the run game an didn’t.

  • Defensive playmakers keep making plays

    EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY - NOVEMBER 26: Myles Bryant #27 of the New England Patriots, Jabrill Peppers #5 of the New England Patriots, and Ja'Whaun Bentley #8 of the New England Patriots celebrate after Peppers' fumble recovery during the first quarter against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium on November 26, 2023 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

    EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY – NOVEMBER 26: Myles Bryant #27 of the New England Patriots, Jabrill Peppers #5 of the New England Patriots, and Ja’Whaun Bentley #8 of the New England Patriots celebrate after Peppers’ fumble recovery during the first quarter against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium on November 26, 2023 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

    For the last month and a half, the Patriots’ two best players have been defensive tackle Christian Barmore and safety Jabrill Peppers. Both kept that up with impact plays on Sunday.

    Barmore picked up his fourth sack of the year, moving him into a tie for the team lead with Matthew Judon. He also batted down his sixth pass of the year – tying him with Peppers for the team lead.

    Peppers picked up an early sack, blowing up Giants running back Saquon Barkley in pass protection for his first QB takedown of the year. He also recovered a fumble in the first half.

    As much as the team is struggling, these two guys keep making plays. Both will be eligible for contract extensions this offseason, and should get strong consideration in that regard from the team.

  • Rookie makes an impact

    Barmore and Peppers weren’t the only ones making plays on defense on Sunday. Rookie second-round pick Keion White showed up as well, recording his first career sack. On the next play he delivered a big hit on a third down tackle.

    After a good camp and strong start to the season, White missed time due to a concussion and hadn’t been able to make the same impact since. Ideally this game will be a spark for him. He should have plenty of chances to play down the stretch, so we’ll see if he can build on this to close his rookie year on a high note.

  • J.C. Jackson struggles in return

    Nov 26, 2023; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; New York Giants wide receiver Jalin Hyatt (13) makes a catch in front of New England Patriots cornerback J.C. Jackson (29) and safety Jabrill Peppers (5) during the second half at MetLife Stadium. Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

    Nov 26, 2023; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; New York Giants wide receiver Jalin Hyatt (13) makes a catch in front of New England Patriots cornerback J.C. Jackson (29) and safety Jabrill Peppers (5) during the second half at MetLife Stadium. Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

    After not traveling with the team to Germany and spending time away from the team, J.C. Jackson made his return to game action on Sunday. He led the team with tackles – which isn’t always a good sign for a corner.

    Jackson was picked on quite a bit and was the main defender on most of the targets to rookie wide receiver Jalin Hyatt, who caught five passes for 109 yards. He did have a nice pass breakup to save a touchdown, but still got beat more often than not.

  • Special teams a letdown again

    Nov 26, 2023; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; New England Patriots place kicker Chad Ryland (37) misses a game tying field goal with 3 seconds left and the New York Giants get the win at MetLife Stadium. Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

    Nov 26, 2023; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; New England Patriots place kicker Chad Ryland (37) misses a game tying field goal with 3 seconds left and the New York Giants get the win at MetLife Stadium. Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

    We already mentioned Chad Ryland’s missed kick, but it deserves more than just a passing mention. This is the second time in as many weeks the rookie fourth-round pick has missed a key kick. It wouldn’t have been a game-winner, but he did miss a 35-yard field goal late in the third quarter of the loss to the Colts. Had Ryland made that kick, the Patriots would have been driving for a field goal – not a touchdown – at the end of that game.

    That wasn’t it for the Patriots special teams miscues. Demario Douglas muffed a punt in the first quarter, Matthew Slater failed to recover a fumble, and Ty Montgomery was stopped short of the 25-yard line running a kickoff out of the end zone.

    Once again, rookie punter Bryce Baringer was the lone bright spot. He punted six times, knocking two of those punts inside the 20 without a touchback.

  • 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 abarth@985TheSportsHub.com.

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