If I’m being honest, I thought I’d be getting another week off from this series when the schedule was first announced. Next week, yeah, I’m ready for that one...but I really thought the Patriots were going to beat the Saints and beat them fairly easily. However, that’s why you play the game. New England couldn’t get anything going on offense, New Orleans played smart football and were careful with their possessions, and the team that deserved to win won it.
It has come to my attention that, in my last Coping With Loss article on the heels of the Miami game, I irked quite a few people in that bastion of rationality and polite, open-minded discourse known as the internet comment section. Apparently, having the nerve to contend that this season is much more about growth, development, and building towards the future than it is about individual wins didn’t sit right with a lot of folks - so I’m going to double down on it. I’m going to say it, and keep saying it, after every Patriots loss this season: 2021 will hopefully serve as the building blocks for a serious title run in a few years. It’s not what’s on the scoreboard that matters this season as much as it is how those points are put up there and kept off there. Wins are great, and in the words of Herm Edwards, you play to win the game. But the rebuild is on right now, and so there’s just going to be more to the game than who goes home with the victory this season.
So, with that in mind, here are some of the elements that I’m taking away as positives from this loss.
Non-conference loss. If you’re going to take a loss, it’s always best to lose to a non-conference opponent. Other than the notch in the W-L column, this game really isn’t going to have much impact in terms of tiebreakers, playoff seedings, or anything like that. So if the playoffs are a possibility as December rolls around, odds are that this game isn’t going to be the make or break factor. And if the playoffs went bye bye a long time before Christmas comes, then this loss improves the draft pick. So no big deal. Plus, now the comment section can point out how ridiculous and hypocritical of me it is to say wins and losses don’t matter so much this season only to immediately open with how this loss will affect potential playoff seeding. So consider the pot officially stirred.
Good experience for the rookie. How Mac Jones reacts to this game, how he responds, and what he takes away from it has the potential to be far more valuable than everything he’s done up to this point. He should have gotten his first win against Miami, he beat the Jets, and he has been playing very well so far. And honestly, he actually didn’t have a bad game against the Saints, either; his stat line doesn’t really reflect his play considering his lack of protection, the receiver drops, and New England’s inability to run the ball. But he’s one of the leaders of this team now, and games like this are going to happen. Hopefully it serves as a bit of a wakeup call and things start to gel even more for him. He’s likely still sore today from the beating he took on Sunday, so it could ultimately become a positive.
One of those games. In a very, very odd way, I took some comfort in Sunday’s game in that it reminded me of almost every single Brady-led Patriots squad of the last 20 years. Every season, virtually without fail, Tommy B’s Patriots would take the field against a team they should probably beat and they would completely stink, from the coaching staff all the way on down. New England was good for one or two of those losses a year as the coaches of the Browns or Jets or Eagles or Dolphins got doused with Gatorade after pulling out a highly improbable W. And while I’m very much aware that the 2021 Pats are nothing like those other teams, if this turns out to be that dud game we get every season and the team finds a way to rally around it, then rock on.
Defense wasn’t as bad as we thought. It’s easy to look at the final stat line, particularly the rushing yards New Orleans gained, and be pretty concerned about what’s going on with this team defensively. And by no means was it perfect; some of the missed assignments and blown coverages just can’t happen at any point during a game. But if you go back and watch the game again, particularly the second half, the D was simply gassed. They had no time to rest in between series as the offense went 3 and out after 3 and out, and the Saints simply wore them down. If you’re a good running team that’s able to grind your opponent into submission, it’s just a matter of time before the defense can’t stop you anymore. The Saints could have blown this game wide open pretty damn early, but the D held and kept it competitive longer than they had any business doing. There’s a lot I’d like to see fixed, but there’s still good reason to be optimistic about this squad.
Mac Jones went deep! It’s what you all wanted to see, right? Let the kid air it out a little bit, see if he can connect one deep? Well you got your wish on Sunday, to mixed results. There were a few that he probably should have put in a bit of a better spot, but there weren’t any deep throws where he pulled a Flacco and just kind of hucked it up there hoping for the best. Sunday’s game should one again hammer home that this team is a work in progress, they aren’t presenting Jones with too much too fast, and some things take time. Even better, there’s still plenty of room for us all to whine about McDaniels’ playcalling, which seems to rank behind only drinking beer commenting on the weather on the list of things New Englanders love most.