New England Patriots WR Julian Edelman caught a short pass from QB Jacoby Brissett on the opening play against the Buffalo Bills and took it 90 yards to the goal line. WR Chris Hogan was flagged for two separate penalties and the play was called back.
A Patriots wide receiver did not see another passing target until the third quarter.
At the end of the game, when the Patriots wide receivers combined for 1 reception on 8 targets for 16 yards, it wasn’t just the end of an ugly game for the Patriots. It was the least productive game by Patriots wide receivers in the entire tenure of head coach Bill Belichick.
Never before have Patriots wide receivers combined for a mere one reception until Belichick. The lowest I was able to find was a 3-catch performance in week 17 of 2008, which coincidentally also game against the Bills. This game featured Matt Cassel at quarterback and the Patriots won 13-0.
The wind speeds were also up to 75 freaking miles per hour in that game, which caused the goal posts to do this:
So you can forgive the Patriots for not throwing the ball as much as they could have.
I found three games where the Patriots wide receivers caught 4 passes, and two came during the 2006 season.
In week 12 of 2006, Reche Caldwell and Troy Brown combined for four receptions against the Bears. The Patriots won 17-13 in an ugly defensive battle.
Two weeks later, the Patriots were shut out by the Dolphins 21-0 as Tom Brady threw 12 completions for just 78 passing yards on the day. Caldwell and Brown combined for four of them.
In week 11 of 2011 (I was actually at this game!) the Patriots destroyed the Chiefs 34-3. The tight end duo of Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez dominated the stat sheet, while Wes Welker and Deion Branch combined for four receptions for 41 yards on th eday.
There were a few more games that featured five receptions by wide receivers, including week 11 against the Cowboys in 2003 week 16 against the Bills in 2010, and a playoff game against the Jaguars in 2005.
Don’t be surprised if there were a few other games that had five or fewer receptions by Patriots wide receivers, but I did the best I could by manually going through all he box scores. I’m 100% confident that this past week’s production against the Bills was the worst in the Belichick era.
We could attribute the lack of production entirely to the inexperience of Jacoby Brissett and Bills head coach Rex Ryan’s understanding of how to manipulate reads. Ryan eliminated the receivers from Brissett’s progressions and that contained the Patriots offense in the middle of the field.
I would be stunned if the Tom Brady-led Patriots ever had a game where the receivers were so uninvolved.