New England Patriots

New England Patriots

Oct 8, 2023; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara (41) is pushed out of bonds by New England Patriots J.C. Jackson (29) during the first half at Gillette Stadium. Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

After last week’s 38-3 loss to the Dallas Cowboys, it couldn’t get any worse for the New England Patriots. Right?

Well if this Sunday’s game against the New Orleans Saints wasn’t worse, it certainly wasn’t any better. The Patriots were shutout at home for just the second time in the Bill Belichick era, falling 34-0. The loss dropped their record to 1-4.


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It was another ugly all-around effort. The offense never picked up any traction, the defense was pushed around, and there were special teams miscues throughout the game.

As we do every week, it’s time to go through the big takeaways from this game. Spoiler alert, most of it isn’t good. Anyways, here we go…

  • QB play

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - OCTOBER 08: Mac Jones #10 of the New England Patriots looks on during the second quarter against the New Orleans Saints at Gillette Stadium on October 08, 2023 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Winslow Townson/Getty Images)

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS – OCTOBER 08: Mac Jones #10 of the New England Patriots looks on during the second quarter against the New Orleans Saints at Gillette Stadium on October 08, 2023 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Winslow Townson/Getty Images)

    The state of the Patriots’ quarterback room is not good. Obvious, I know. But it’s not something we’re going to skip talking about.

    We’ll start with Mac Jones. The issues that hurt him last week were front and center once again against the Saints. He was reacting to pressure that wasn’t there, his footwork was erratic, and he made panicked decisions.

    After the game, Jones was asked if he feels ‘sped up,’ a term that relates to quarterbacks overthinking and/or rushing their in-play process – something usually brought on by sustained poor pass protection and repeated hits.

    “It’s the NFL, they’ve got good defensive linemen that are coming every play and they’re trying to hit the quarterback. So, I’ve got to do a better job,” Jones said when asked after the game if he felt sped up.

    The thing about quarterbacks being sped-up is the longer they stay that way, the worse it gets and the harder it can be to snap out of it. Right now, Jones seems a long way from being comfortable in the pocket again.

    Bailey Zappe came into the game in the third quarter. He didn’t look as sped up as Jones but his accuracy was an issue. Multiple times, he overthrew open receivers as he finished the game completing 3-of-9 passes.

  • The line of scrimmage

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - OCTOBER 08: The New England Patriots and the New Orleans Saints line up before a play during the first half at Gillette Stadium on October 08, 2023 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Malhotra/Getty Images)

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS – OCTOBER 08: The New England Patriots and the New Orleans Saints line up before a play during the first half at Gillette Stadium on October 08, 2023 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Malhotra/Getty Images)

    Both on offense and defense, the Patriots struggled at the line of scrimmage. There was no push by the offensive or defensive line, which made it difficult for the Patriots to establish any sort of momentum.

    We’ve already touched a bit on the offensive line issues in this game. Jones was pressured regularly with the right tackle spot once again being an issue. Despite Riley Reiff, who was the starting right tackle at the beginning of camp, being activated from IR, he only subbed in at guard while Vederian Lowe played wire-to-wire at right tackle.

    Things weren’t much better on the ground. Running room was scarce, as the Patriots ran for just 2.5 yards per carry. New England’s longest run of the day was eight yards.

    On defense, the Patriots failed to pressure quarterback Derek Carr for much of the game. He was hit just four times, and sacked only twice. The absence of Matthew Judon was certainly felt.

  • Third down woes

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - OCTOBER 08: New England Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien and Mac Jones #10 of the New England Patriots look on during the first quarter against the New Orleans Saints at Gillette Stadium on October 08, 2023 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Winslow Townson/Getty Images)

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS – OCTOBER 08: New England Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien and Mac Jones #10 of the New England Patriots look on during the first quarter against the New Orleans Saints at Gillette Stadium on October 08, 2023 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Winslow Townson/Getty Images)

    Back to the Patriots’ offense here, and situational football. Specifically, third downs.

    The Patriots went 1-for-14 on third down in this game. That’s a conversion rate of 7.1 percent. It’s the most third down attempts they’ve had in a game under Bill Belichick while only converting one or fewer attempts, and the second-worst third-down percentage in a game under Belichick period, outside of a game when they went 0-for-11 against Miami in 2017.

    It’s not so much that the Patriots were bad at converting on third downs, so much as it was an issue of not setting up manageable third downs. The average distance go to on third downs for the Patriots in this game was 6.4 yards, with the average distance to go in the first half being 7.7 yards. It’s nearly impossible to win a football game when trying to convert from that far behind the sticks, that often.

  • Special teams struggles

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - OCTOBER 08: Jabrill Peppers #5 of the New England Patriots muffs a punt during the first half against the New Orleans Saints at Gillette Stadium on October 08, 2023 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Winslow Townson/Getty Images)

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS – OCTOBER 08: Jabrill Peppers #5 of the New England Patriots muffs a punt during the first half against the New Orleans Saints at Gillette Stadium on October 08, 2023 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Winslow Townson/Getty Images)

    We’ve touched on offense. We’ve touched on defense. We also have to touch on special teams.

    The Patriots struggled in multiple phases of the kicking game on Sunday. Rookie kicker Chad Ryland missed another field goal, this time from 48 yards. With that miss, Ryland is now 4-of-8 to start his NFL career.

    On one hand, seven of Ryland’s eight kicks have been from 48 yards or longer. He hasn’t exactly been put in for chip shots. At the same time, part of the reason Ryland was drafted as high as he was (fourth round, as the second kicker off the board) is his ability to hit field goals from distance.

    Rookie punter Bryce Baringer struggled early, mis-hitting his first two punts before settling in. Still, those two ended up being costly as it allowed the Saints advantageous field position to build a lead. His first punt – which went just 26 yards before going out of bounds and set New Orleans up at the New England 40-yard line, included a bad snap from long snapper Joe Cardona.

    It wasn’t a great game for the returners either. Ty Montgomery ran two kickoffs out of the end zone and failed to get to the 25 on either one, and Jabrill Peppers fair-caught one punt inside the five (instead of letting it roll into the end zone for a touchback) and fumbled another while trying to pick it up off a bounce.

  • What’s next?

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - OCTOBER 08: Keion White #99 of the New England Patriots pursues Kendre Miller #25 of the New Orleans Saints during the fourth quarter at Gillette Stadium on October 08, 2023 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Winslow Townson/Getty Images)

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS – OCTOBER 08: Keion White #99 of the New England Patriots pursues Kendre Miller #25 of the New Orleans Saints during the fourth quarter at Gillette Stadium on October 08, 2023 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Winslow Townson/Getty Images)

    Where do the Patriots go from here? There are a lot of big picture questions about the direction of the organization that will be had in the coming days. On a more micro level though, there is one adjustment the Patriots can make right now that should help them in the long term – play the kids.

    At 1-4, the playoffs are now a longshot for the Patriots. It’s not unrealistic to say this team should at least be glancing at next year. In that regard, they should start to figure out what they have in some of these younger players. That goes from Keion White – who should see an increased role following Matthew Judon’s injury, to players like Ameer Speed. The sixth-round corner had played exclusively on special teams through the first four weeks, but saw some time at cornerback late in this game.

    Pretty much any player from the last two draft classes falls into the category. Will that become a reality? We’ll see.

  • 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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