New England Patriots

  • Even when the Bills don’t play their best football, they beat the Patriots by two touchdowns, because the Patriots can’t play competent offense.

    If the 2022 Patriots have a representative NFL-caliber operation on the offensive side of the ball, they’re in that game in the fourth quarter. But at 17-7, the lead felt insurmountable. The fans in Gillette Stadium had grown noticeably quiet by that point, because even if the defense made a big play, they’d lost faith in the offense to make anything of the opportunity.

    In fact, the defense DID make that big play. Linebacker Josh Uche strip-sacked Bills quarterback Josh Allen and Matthew Judon recovered the fumble, giving the Patriots a golden opportunity near midfield with 1:31 left in the second quarter.

    A nine-yard catch by Jakobi Meyers should have sparked the drive, but instead, things went cockeyed at the worst possible time. Second-and-1, Rhamondre Stevenson is stuffed for no gain, Pats take a timeout. Third-and-1, Mac Jones converts, but is forced to take another timeout. Three straight plays, two of them incompletions, stop the clock. Finally, Nick Folk misses his 48-yard field goal attempt.

  • Dec 1, 2022; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones (10) runs the ball against the Buffalo Bills in the second quarter at Gillette Stadium. Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

    Dec 1, 2022; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones (10) runs the ball against the Buffalo Bills in the second quarter at Gillette Stadium. Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

  • And the Patriots left 10 seconds for the Bills to take a shot at points of their own, on top of that. It was the second straight game of horrific situational offense at the end of the first half. That’s on de facto offensive coordinator Matt Patricia. And the fact he holds that position in the first place is on Bill Belichick.

    “Well, I’ll just say tonight, like I said, we just didn’t do enough,” Belichick said. “Had some opportunities and weren’t able to take advantage of them.”

    Things didn’t improve much for the offense in the second half, culminating with a 17-play, 60-yard slog that ended with a field goal made almost out of pity. It also came to a head for Mac Jones, who attempted short passes on 13 of the 17 plays. His frustration was laid bare to the world in a now-viral video clip in which Jones appears to scream, “Throw the fucking ball!” and exclaim that what they were doing at the time “sucks!”

     

     

  • As bad as it seemed as the game winded down, it felt even worse after it ended, when the players started talking.

    Jones was asked to clarify the video clip, and chalked it up to letting his emotions get to him. But he admitted that he was hoping to try for more big plays at that point in the game, with the Patriots down three possessions and desperately needing another spark, something, let alone a comeback.

    “I felt like we needed chunk plays,” Jones said in his postgame presser. “I shouted that out to kind of get everyone going. That’s emotional. That’s football. I’m passionate about this game. Obviously, you don’t want to let your emotions get the best of you. But yeah, I think that’s pretty much it. It wasn’t directed at anybody. Just emotion coming out and we kind of needed a spark.

    “When you’re playing from behind against a pretty good team and a good offense, you need to go out there and make better plays. That starts with me. Definitely wasn’t good enough by me tonight. All you can do is watch the tape and see where we can get better. Playing catch-up is hard. We didn’t want to do that all game. I didn’t do a good enough job of getting ahead early, making it work. So tough one, but hats off to the Bills for playing a good game.”

  • No one called out Patricia by name, which would have been really out of character for any Patriot to say about any coach. Jones even went so far as to say the two were “on the same page” on that final dink-and-dunk offensive drive. But wide receiver Kendrick Bourne, widely believed to have been in Patricia’s dog house for much of the season, was more pointed in his postgame remarks.

    “We need to scheme up better,” Bourne said (via Andrew Callahan). “We need to know what they’re doing. We need to know what they wanna do on third down. … They call this, and we call that, and it falls right into what they want.”

    When you’re lamenting the offense’s inability to scheme it up, who else could you possibly be speaking to other than the man in charge of coordinating the offense? It was the kind of postgame reaction that’s going to breed questions of a mutiny. At the very least, can we get a “come to Jesus” moment for this unit?

  • The Patriots undid a lot of progress seemingly made by the offense on Thanksgiving night in Minneapolis. We’re right back to wondering how the hell they’re going to move the ball, let alone score touchdowns. And we’re doing it with a lot of the same players last year. Jones, Bourne, Stevenson, Meyers, Nelson Agholor, Hunter Henry, Jonnu Smith, Trent Brown, David Andrews, and Mike Onwenu are all returning players from last year.

    The Patriots were sixth in scoring offense in 2021. It’s not like these guys all forgot how to play football.

    What changed? It’s obvious. Everyone knows it. Belichick probably knows it, too, but can’t admit it. So when he’s asked if any major changes have led to the offense cratering, all he’s got for you is “Just got through with the game here.”

    belichick patricia

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS – SEPTEMBER 25: Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots stands on the sideline with Senior Football Advisor Matt Patricia during the game against the Baltimore Ravens at Gillette Stadium on September 25, 2022 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

  • The most frustrating part? The Bills weren’t at their best themselves. Allen turned the ball over for the 10th time in 12 games. Receivers dropped the ball. They even punted a few times. End of the day, 24 points against that offense isn’t a disaster for the defense.

    Again, field a competent offense and that’s a 24-20, 24-17 game at worst. Hell, perhaps they even have a chance to win on that final drive. And maybe they throw the football more than five yards down the field. Maybe they score a touchdown with a wide receiver or tight end or running back, rather than a slot cornerback.

    The Patriots seem so far away from accomplishing even the most basic things on offense. We all know why. And we’re left hoping that Thursday night was the bottom.

  • 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 @realmattdolloff. Check out all of Matt’s content here.