New England Patriots

New England Patriots

The New England Patriots are 2-7 after suffering a crushing 20-17 loss to the Washington Commanders on Sunday at Gillette Stadium. Here are 12 players we graded “UP” or “DOWN” based on their performance in the game…

DOWN: WR JuJu Smith-Schuster

Nov 5, 2023; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (7) has the ball got through his hands during the second half against the Washington Commanders at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Nov 5, 2023; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (7) has the ball got through his hands during the second half against the Washington Commanders at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Smith-Schuster caught six of his seven targets for 51 yards, but it was that seventh target that really did him in. Mac Jones put the ball right in his hands, and the ball popped through and ended up an interception.

Smith-Schuster took accountability for the play after the game, so good on him for that. But the reality remains that he hasn’t looked like the same productive player he’s been in the past, and may never return to that level. Rough first season in New England for him.

DOWN: QB Mac Jones

FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - NOVEMBER 05: Mac Jones #10 of the New England Patriots looks to throw a pass in the game against the Washington Commanders during the first quarter at Gillette Stadium on November 05, 2023 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS – NOVEMBER 05: Mac Jones #10 of the New England Patriots looks to throw a pass in the game against the Washington Commanders during the first quarter at Gillette Stadium on November 05, 2023 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

Jones wasn’t the biggest problem in this loss – I’d put the receivers and the big plays allowed on defense above him – but a fourth-down overthrow of Tyquan Thornton loomed large throughout the game. The Patriots had a chance to go up 7-0 there, because Thornton was open with no one in front of him.

Instead, they had to play from behind for most of the game because of Jones’ bad throw. The offensive line mostly gave him time to throw today, too, and it didn’t feel like Jones did much to take advantage of that. He’s certainly not good enough to make up for the Pats’ lack of weapons, but he can be better than he was.

  • UP: TE Hunter Henry

    Nov 5, 2023; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots tight end Hunter Henry (85) catches a pass for a touchdown during the first half against the Washington Commanders at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

    Nov 5, 2023; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots tight end Hunter Henry (85) catches a pass for a touchdown during the first half against the Washington Commanders at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

    Henry caught four of seven targets for 39 yards and the team’s only touchdown catch of the day. It was a nice connection with Jones down the seam, where Henry had a small window to work with in order to secure the catch. Henry just isn’t a superstar, so he’s not going to win them a game by himself. But he had a solid day.

  • DOWN: WR Jalen Reagor

    Nov 5, 2023; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots wide receiver Jalen Reagor (83) has the ball go through his hands during the second half against the Washington Commanders at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

    Nov 5, 2023; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots wide receiver Jalen Reagor (83) has the ball go through his hands during the second half against the Washington Commanders at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

    Reagor played an estimated 47 of 62 snaps (75.8 percent), and managed to get a season-high six targets. But he could only come up with one catch for 11 yards out of that workload. A deep ball went through his hands late in the fourth quarter. That one stung. It’s not Reagor’s fault he’s being depended on so heavily in the first place, but a bad game is a bad game.

  • UP: RB Rhamondre Stevenson

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - NOVEMBER 05: Rhamondre Stevenson #38 of the New England Patriots scores a touchdown during the first half in the game against the Washington Commanders at Gillette Stadium on November 05, 2023 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS – NOVEMBER 05: Rhamondre Stevenson #38 of the New England Patriots scores a touchdown during the first half in the game against the Washington Commanders at Gillette Stadium on November 05, 2023 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

    Stevenson’s 64-yard touchdown run was the Patriots’ longest play of the season so far. He had a gaping hole to run through, thanks to the offensive line. But the run exemplified Stevenson’s underrated top-end speed for his size, and how hard he is to bring down, especially when he’s got a full head of steam in the open field. Stevenson deserves and “UP” for that play alone.

  • DOWN: DBs Jalen Mills & Adrian Phillips

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - NOVEMBER 05: Sam Howell #14 of the Washington Commanders is tackled by Jalen Mills #2 and Adrian Phillips #21 of the New England Patriots during the first half at Gillette Stadium on November 05, 2023 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS – NOVEMBER 05: Sam Howell #14 of the Washington Commanders is tackled by Jalen Mills #2 and Adrian Phillips #21 of the New England Patriots during the first half at Gillette Stadium on November 05, 2023 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

    Bit of a different thing here. We need to do Mills and Phillips as a package deal, because the mistake came from both of them on the same play. That would be a ridiculous 24-yard run by Sam Howell on third-and-23, in which both Mills and Phillips had Howell nearly wrapped up for a tackle but couldn’t complete the play. Howell ended up throwing an interception that drive, but that play stunk out loud and was something of a microcosm for the game.

  • UP: LB Jahlani Tavai

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - NOVEMBER 05: Brian Robinson Jr. #8 of the Washington Commanders fumbles the ball during the first half in the game against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on November 05, 2023 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS – NOVEMBER 05: Brian Robinson Jr. #8 of the Washington Commanders fumbles the ball during the first half in the game against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on November 05, 2023 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

    Tavai continued his quietly excellent season with a great play to punch the ball out for a forced fumble in the second quarter, which helped set up a Patriots touchdown. The Pats might not have even been in the game in the end if not for Tavai’s big play. He’s been a bright spot in an otherwise demoralizing season.

  • DOWN: CB Myles Bryant

    Nov 5, 2023; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; Washington Commanders wide receiver Jamison Crowder (83) runs with the ball wile New England Patriots cornerback Myles Bryant (27) defends during the first half at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

    Nov 5, 2023; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; Washington Commanders wide receiver Jamison Crowder (83) runs with the ball wile New England Patriots cornerback Myles Bryant (27) defends during the first half at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

    Bryant was in coverage on Jahan Dotson’s touchdown that tied the game in the third quarter. This is partially a “not his fault” situation, because injuries and apparent benchings have hurt the Pats’ secondary. But Bryant’s coverage hasn’t been good lately. He may not be a great corner, but he’s better than this.

  • UP: C David Andrews

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - NOVEMBER 05: Hunter Henry #85 of the New England Patriots celebrates after a touchdown with David Andrews #60 during the first half in the game against the Washington Commanders at Gillette Stadium on November 05, 2023 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS – NOVEMBER 05: Hunter Henry #85 of the New England Patriots celebrates after a touchdown with David Andrews #60 during the first half in the game against the Washington Commanders at Gillette Stadium on November 05, 2023 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    Credit is due to Andrews, and for that matter right guard Sidy Sow, for opening up a hole that you could drive a truck through that Stevenson took to the house. The offensive line had a pretty good day, overall, and Andrews was at the center of it (pun intended).

  • DOWN: LB Mack Wilson Sr.

    Sep 10, 2023; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots linebacker Mack Wilson Sr. (3) prepares for a game against the Philadelphia Eagles during the warm-up period at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

    Sep 10, 2023; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots linebacker Mack Wilson Sr. (3) prepares for a game against the Philadelphia Eagles during the warm-up period at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

    The Patriots have had some bad penalties this season, but Wilson may have committed the worst one yet when he went offside on a late-fourth-quarter punt, gifting the Commanders a first down. The Pats got the ball back anyway, but precious time ticked off the clock and they had to burn a timeout in there. An inexcusable penalty by Wilson, landing him in the downs.

  • UP: LB Ja’Whaun Bentley

    Nov 5, 2023; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots linebacker Ja'Whaun Bentley (8) sacks Washington Commanders quarterback Sam Howell (14) during the second half at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

    Nov 5, 2023; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley (8) sacks Washington Commanders quarterback Sam Howell (14) during the second half at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

    Bentley finished with a team-high 13 tackles and two sacks. He keeps getting better every season. Bentley remains one of the top leaders on the team and is becoming their most productive inside linebacker since Dont’a Hightower. No complaints about him in this one.

  • DOWN: WR Tyquan Thornton

    Aug 10, 2023; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots wide receiver Tyquan Thornton (11) during the first half against the Houston Texans at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

    Aug 10, 2023; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots wide receiver Tyquan Thornton (11) during the first half against the Houston Texans at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

    Thornton played 12 snaps, then didn’t see the field for the rest of the game after the Patriots’ third offensive drive, which ended with an incompletion intended for him and a punt. Bill Belichick clearly didn’t like what Thornton was bringing to the table. Thornton might be running out of time to bring any value as a second-round pick for a team in desperate need of talent at wide receiver.

  • Click here for complete New England Patriots coverage at 985TheSportsHub.com.

    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. Check out all of Matt’s content here.

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