The New England Patriots are leaving Week 14 with a big win over the Arizona Cardinals on Monday Night Football. Their 27-13 victory may not have been pretty, but, at this point in the season, you are just trying to stay alive by any means necessary.
Let’s get into our 10 takeaways from the game on Monday.
New England’s depth is being tested: The Patriots lost DeVante Parker, Rhamondre Stevenson, Jack Jones and Devin McCourty to injury on Sunday night, and, with a short week coming up, possibly for the next game against the Las Vegas Raiders as well. For a team that is thin on talent and trying to make a playoff push, losing four starter-level contributors — including arguably their best offensive player in Stevenson — could be a disaster.
The hope is that none of the injuries are serious, and that all four will be able to come back soon.
The rookie running backs know how to step up: Damien Harris was already out to start the game, and then the aforementioned Rhamondre Stevenson left with an ankle injury. That left Kevin Harris and Pierre Strong Jr. to take the snaps at running back for the Patriots, and both rookies had flashes.
Strong Jr. got to show off his speed, and Harris showed some of the tough running that we saw in the preseason. If Stevenson and Harris remain out, it will be tough to take, but the rookies performed admirably when they were forced into action.
Nelson Agholor is infuriating: The Patriots offense has been struggling, and one of the main culprits is Nelson Agholor. He just has a hard time holding onto the ball on Monday night; fairly simple catches sometimes seemed hard to him.
The Patriots are not good enough to not take advantage of open plays. He almost cost the Patriots a turnover as well, when he dropped a pass in tight coverage and Zaven Collins came close to intercepting it. The Patriots caught a bit of a break by it being called incomplete.
The simple fact, however, is that they cannot continue to play Agholor is he’s going to keep dropping easy passes. They need a more consistent player out there.
The running game woes rear their ugly head again: The Patriots simply could not stop James Conner, who was picking up 5.7 yards on every carry and scored a touchdown. If the Cardinals could have committed to running the ball more consistently, they might have been able to beat the Patriots doing just that.
Luckily for New England, the Cardinals refused to do that, especially after falling behind, and they were able to slow down Colt McCoy and the passing attack. Looking ahead, the Raiders have no problem running the ball, so this will be something that bears watching on Sunday.
Marcus Jones is so good: Marcus Jones has been doing it all this year. He’s playing on offense, defense, and special teams. The Patriots seem to know that he’s a special athlete, and they are putting him out there to see what he can do to give them a spark. He’s been one of the Patriots’ home run picks as a rookie this year.
If only somebody had seen his potential coming out of Houston. Not sure how we all missed that...
Matthew Judon’s sack numbers are misleading: He ended up with 1.5 sacks, and another pressure that got Josh Uche a sack, but Judon had a pretty quiet night until the Cardinals had to air it out at the end of the game. This is the second straight year that he has started to fade a bit towards the end of the season.
He has been better at the end of this year than he was in 2021, and is drawing significant attention to help free players such as Uche up, but seeing his production dip again is concerning for a team reliant on strong defense.
Josh Uche is becoming a force: One thing that has made Judon fading a bit lately a little more bearable is Josh Uche. The former second-round draft pick has been coming on as of late, and had a huge game on Monday with three more sacks to his name. He now has 10 on the year, and is becoming someone that offenses can’t afford to overlook, no matter how dangerous Judon is on the other side.
Trent Brown is a mess: Every game the last few weeks, Trent Brown has had at least a few plays where he looks completely out of sorts on the field. It happened on Monday night a few times as well; once where he blocked no one on a stunt that got Mac Jones sacked, and again on a play that wound up being a touchdown, but saw him get blown into the backfield to almost throw the play off.
Offensive tackle play has been a major concern all season, and the Patriots need Brown to be at his best if they want to get their offense back on track. Lately, he hasn’t been that but there are no alternatives anywhere to be found.
The Patriots will continue to rely on their bread-and-butter plays: Mac Jones had a pretty good game on Monday night. Sure, he finished without a touchdown and threw his first interception in five games, but he did a nice job of getting the ball to his open receivers, and creating a few plays when the structure broke down around him.
The Patriots also may have found something with the quick screen game against Arizona. Jones attempted 12 such passes, and the quick ones to the outside especially helped keep the defense honest.
New England has been playing against stacked boxes and opponents have been flooding the middle of the field. If those plays keep working, defenses are going to have to adjust, and it should open things up for them to attack the middle of the field and further downfield. Overall, it was an OK performance from the offense without its top two running backs and top two wide receivers for the majority of the game.
The season is still alive: The Patriots had to win on Monday to keep their playoff hopes alive. We all know that they finish in Las Vegas before games against Cincinnati, Miami and Buffalo, so they need to get these wins now while they are able to.
Next up is another winnable game against the Raiders. Win that one and the Patriots will continue moving towards a playoff berth. What more can you ask for?