Okay, what the heck was that?
It was a solid effort towards the end of the game, but that didn't extend to the rest of the game. Kendrick Bourne had an amazing touchdown effort, Mac Jones showed a ton of heart and didn't quit, and Matt Judon showed why he was one of the bigger signings. But everything else? Yikes.
Not So Special
Special teams is usually the bread, butter, knife, and dinner table for Belichick's tenure. But today, it wasn't very special. All-Pro punter Jake Bailey wasn't his coffin corner self, with 2 touchbacks. Granted, he punted 5 times today and was on the field more than most fans would want to see. It's great he's an All-Pro, but if we're punting the ball it means the drives met their ends. For the first time in quite some time, the Patriots were on the receiving end of the punt being blocked. It capped off the three phases of the game being lost. But hey, Nick Folk added some FGs and continued his streak.
Naturally, that's good advice. But when it comes to this game, it was more of a suggestion for Mac Jones. Jones needed all the help he could get from the big guys up front. He was only sacked 2 times, but Mac spent most of his day getting intense and unrelenting pressure. Cam Jordan is good. It can't be said enough. He's good. But the entire Saints defensive line was folding the offensive line with every snap. It wasn't until the Saints played prevent defense that things started to work a little better for Jones, and that's just how that defense works. The kid can sling it, but he needs time. The WRs aren't exactly Tyreek Hill out there, they need time to at least get somewhat open. But give credit where it's due, the secondary for the Saints did a great job forcing Mac Jones into holding the ball even when he had time. Maybe for better protection he should use a name brand, or wrap himself in bubble wrap and hope they get distracted like toddlers.
While it appeared at times that the Pats defense was stonewalling the run, and the pass rush was making Jameis Winston jittery, the Saints still moved the ball consistently. Kamara ran for 89 yards on 24 yards, a 3.7 yard average, while adding 3 catches for 29 yards and a touchdown. They held him in check at points during the game, but eventually it added up. The run defense did look largely improved from what it was in previous years, Kamara probably would've had about 120 yards if it was a year or two ago. The secondary suffered the same fate. They didn't get steamrolled, they did hold Winston to another 100 yard passing day. But there were plenty of, "What are you doing?!" moments. Overall, they didn't play horribly. But when you have to stop them from scoring on a drive that started on your own 9 yard line, or on your side of the 50 yard line, it makes things a little more difficult.
The Game Inside
Sean Payton knew how important the game inside of the game was. Belichick preaches the importance of it. The turnover battle. Mac Jones threw his first NFL interception...then another....then another. Two were less his fault than the last one, but they happened anyway. Jonnu Smith, who probably ate some popcorn before the game, bobbled a pass and tipped it straight to Malcolm Jenkins who returned it for a touchdown to ruin the first possession of the 2nd half for the Pats. The Saints were the ultimate opportunists in this one, taking advantage of the errors to kill more and more clock, whether they missed the FGs or not.
Mac got Cheese'd
As the Patriots offense walked off the field for the last time today, the camera caught Mac Jones sit on the bench and put his head in his hands. He wasn't disinterested, he cared. He cared a lot. He didn't angrily stare into the middle distance, he didn't throw a towel over his head and look checked out. He cared. If you take out the interceptions, the stat line isn't completely horrible. 30/51 for 270 yards and a touchdown. But the interceptions happened. Some of the yards were in "garbage time." The rookie stood tall, took hit after hit, but was uncharacteristically inaccurate on throws. His receivers are a little to blame, but Agholor got open a few times only to have the ball land out of his reach. Jonnu Smith dropped a couple of passes, including a pick six. Any time a Patriots WR got open, they seemed gassed to the point that they weren't going to be running long distance to the end zone. Kendrick Bourne reemerged from his cocoon to grab 6 passes for 96 yards, including a 31 yarder. He was Bourne again. He looked good. Meyers (9 catches, 94 yards) looked good. Hunter Henry (5 catches, 36 yards) looked good. So what was the problem? No time in the pocket. Mac Jones was the leading rusher. If that sentence alone doesn't spell what the problem is, then there's probably something missing. Mac Jones has been compared to Tom Brady when it comes to athleticism, but Mac showed that he can escape and slide when he needs to. He even pulled off some good sneak plays, including one during the last possession where he dove around the edge instead of into the pile. It's that type of heart that will mean good things long term. It's just that the Saints ate that heart out today.
The Saints came marching into town. They took everything. They took the win, the ball a couple times, and quite rudely wouldn't give it back and let us play when it was 21-13 with like 5 minutes left. They were like the invited house guest who made themselves a little too comfortable. They didn't overstep any major boundaries, the offense just took advantage of us. It's time to close our robes, regroup, and make it through next week's emotionally charged episode of, "Which Analyst/Personality Can Say the Dumbest Thing?"
House money says Skip Bayless or Stephen A.