The Patriots are reeling after getting embarrassed by the Lions on Sunday Night Football. They’ve lost two straight games for the first time since 2015, and they’re starting 1-2 for the first time since 2012. After the game, Bill Belichick said that they have to improve everywhere, and that’s definitely true. There are, however, some specific areas in which the team really needs to improve.
The Patriots have been completely unable to stop the run. This is surprising because I consider their front seven as a unit to be a strength. They have a ton of depth and talent on the defensive line, so there’s no reason why they should be getting pushed around like they have been. The blame goes to the line and the linebackers, who have been allowing huge cutback lanes for the backs in the last two weeks. Getting back Trey Flowers and Patrick Chung, who sometimes acts as another linebacker, will help, but the unit as a whole just needs to start playing better.
I’m not going to single out the receivers here. The whole unit has been very underwhelming. Tom Brady has yet to eclipse 300 yards passing in a game, and already has two interceptions in three games, which is uncharacteristic of him. Right now, there’s no one other than Rob Gronkowski that has any chance of beating man coverage. If I were playing the Patriots, I’d run man and double Gronk, and they’d never have a chance. This problem should be alleviated if Julian Edelman comes back the same player he was before his injury last season. And if Josh Gordon can get it together and actually be a factor, then this offense could really be dangerous. For me, it’s disappointing to find out that Phillip Dorsett and Chris Hogan are simply pieces that need better players around them to be successful.
This is one that people have been bugged about for a while now. Some of the calls that offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels makes are head scratching. He’ll call the same running play a few times in a row, whether or not it works. Then on 3rd and short with the offense struggling to get anything going, he’ll call a run off the guard that loses two yards. It just makes no sense at all. He’s certainly dialed up some great plays here, but it seems that he has a very hard time getting the offense going if it isn’t clicking. Not sure if this one is going to change, but I know I sure hope he’ll step his play calling up.
They say speed kills. Well, so does lack of speed. The Patriots have looked slow on offense and defense the past two weeks after looking solid against the Texans in the opener. There are certainly players banged up or suspended that will help when they come back, but the entire team looked to be moving in wet cement Sunday night. Dont’a Hightower in particular has looked like he’s lost a step, which would be a massive blow for a team that desperately needs a playmaker on defense. Sometimes, if you’re thinking too much and not just playing, you can play slower than you actually are. Let’s hope that’s what is going on here, and the coaching staff can figure it out. Because otherwise, it’s going to be a very long season, and the Patriots won’t be going far. There’s too much speed in the NFL, and AFC, for you to be able to compete without good team speed yourself.
This week is as close to a must-win as you can have this early in the season. Lose and you’re 1-3 with 3 straight losses, and, more importantly, you’re down three games to the Dolphins. That absolutely cannot happen – so expect them to bounce back and play well. If we know their season is on the line, so do they, and you can bet the farm they won’t just roll over the way they have the last few weeks.
Pat is the host of the Weekend Warrior Podcast
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