The sixth week of the NFL’s 2021 regular season is in the books, and it certainly was an eventful one across the league. From the New England Patriots’ perspective, however, it was a disappointment: the team fell to 2-4 after losing 35-29 to the Dallas Cowboys in overtime — a loss that dropped New England two spots in the AFC playoff picture.
With that said, let’s dig into what we learned in Week 6, starting with our biggest Patriots takeaway of the weekend.
Patriots takeaway of the week: The coaches don’t seem to trust the offense
Six games into his NFL career Mac Jones has shown that he can be a successful quarterback at the pro level. He still has plenty of room to grow and is prone to the occasional rookie mistake, but he keeps showing why New England felt confident investing the 15th overall selection in this year’s draft in the Alabama product and decided to roll with him as the starter.
At least from afar, Jones appears to be near the bottom on the list of issues for the Patriots offense at the moment. For some reason, however, it seems as if the team’s coaching staff is not yet fully trusting him and the unit to consistently keep the foot on the gas.
It appears that mistakes made either by himself or by those around him are oftentimes causing offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels to go into preservation mode. Take last week’s game against the Houston Texans, which saw Jones throw an interception and the Patriots rely heavily on the running game from that point on.
Against the Cowboys it was more of the same. When Mac Jones was sacked in the second quarter and lost a fumble, the Patriots offense became far less aggressive. Andrew Callahan of the Boston Herald pointed this out the other day:
Mac Jones' strip sack scared Josh McDaniels out of an effective early-down formula.— Andrew Callahan (@_AndrewCallahan) October 18, 2021
The Pats' 1st-down pass rate was 55% to that point, with a 12.8 yards/play average.
After that, the Pats ran on 73% of their 1st downs with a 4.2 yards/play average.
Taking care of your franchise quarterback is smart business, yes. That said, it appears the Patriots are too cautious at times, and it is actively limiting their offensive output.
Other takeaways from the NFL
London is not a good travel destination for the AFC East this year: One week after the New York Jets lost to the Atlanta Falcons, another team from the Patriots’ division was defeated in London: the Miami Dolphins dropped their Week 6 contest to the winless Jacksonville Jaguars with a final score of 23-20. It was another bad day for a Miami team many saw as a dark-horse candidate to sneak into the playoffs this year. Now, the Dolphins are 1-5 with their lone win coming on opening day against the Patriots.
The Ravens stake their claim as the AFC’s best team: Buffalo is still in the conversation as the best team in the conference despite its loss in Tennessee, but it is hard not to make an argument for Baltimore as the current head of the class. Dismantling the Los Angeles Chargers in a battle of 4-1 teams — one that ended 34-6 in their favor — the Ravens proved once again that they are a force to be reckoned with this year.
Mac Jones is good but Ja’Marr Chase should be the frontrunner for Rookie of the Year: New England’s rookie quarterback has had a solid first six games of the season, but Cincinnati wideout Ja’Marr Chase may have a leg up on him in the Offensive Rookie of the Year race. Catching four more passes for 97 yards in Week 6, he brought his season total to 27 receptions for 553 yards and 5 touchdowns. Those are impressive numbers.
Going for it on 4th-and-1 was not a bad call for the Bills: Sean McDermott could have gone for a game-tying field goal late in the fourth quarter against the Tennessee Titans, but he left his offense on the field to attempt a quarterback sneak on 4th-and-1 from the 3-yard line. Tennessee stuffed the attempt to win the game, but the decision was still a good one for the Bills: up until this game, Josh Allen had a conversion rate of 83 percent with a single yard to gain and 93 percent — 13 of 14 — on fourth down.
In the age of passing Derrick Henry continues to stand out: The reigning NFL Offensive Player of the Year had another magnificent game against the Bills. Henry carried the ball 20 times for 143 yards and 3 scores; he also caught 2 passes for 13 yards. While passing the football is the most effective way to move down the field in this day and age, Henry shows that running backs can still be very valuable to a team.
Las Vegas is able to end a tumultuous week in style: Just a few days after head coach Jon Gruden stepped down after an email scandal, the Raiders had to play on the road against a division rival. While all signs appeared to point towards a loss, the team of interim head coach Rich Bisaccia had different plans, defeating the Denver Broncos 34-24. Talk about blocking out the noise.
Jamal Adams can be criticized, but not for his ‘best in the nation’ comment: The Seattle Seahawks’ overtime loss against Pittsburgh saw Adams drop an easy interception in the fourth quarter that could have helped his team come away with a win. Naturally, the big trade acquisition was ridiculed on social media after the game — especially in combination with his introductory clip:
I feel like this could be useful for the rest of the season pic.twitter.com/tBipIdWdDj— Sebastian (@mrcaseb) October 18, 2021
However, it turns out that the “best in the nation” comment had nothing to do with himself but was rather a tribute to former St. Louis Rams running back Trabis Ward. As pointed out by Emily Staker on Twitter, Ward was shot and killed one year ago and Adams used the opportunity to pay his respects on the anniversary of his death.
The Texans fall back down to earth after a close game against the Patriots: Houston came close to beating the Patriots in Week 5, but this week’s matchup versus the Indianapolis Colts was a different story: the Texans were blown out 31-3 and have now scored only 34 combined points in their last four games. 22 of those, of course, came against New England.
Reports of Patrick Mahomes’ demise were exaggerated: The Chiefs’ star quarterback struggled early on against the Washington Football Team and continues to be more prone to mistakes than in year’s past. However, when push came to shove he showed that he remains one of the most dangerous players in the game. The former Super Bowl MVP led his team to 21 unanswered points in the second half to come away with the win, making his fair share of highlight reel plays along the way.
Lane Johnson deserves respect: Patriots fans and Philadelphia Eagles offensive tackle Lane Johnson will not become friends anytime soon — he shared some strong opinions about the organization a few years back — but he still deserves plenty of respect regardless of team affiliations. Johnson took to social media earlier this week to share that he has been battling depression and anxiety, and took some personal time off to deal with the matter. His decision to come forward could not have been an easy one, especially while playing a sport that oftentimes does not tolerate any signs of vulnerability. Kudos to him for opening up about his personal life anyway.