The most disappointing part of Thursday night’s loss wasn’t the score, or even having to watch Bills’ QB Josh Allen maintain his close shave as the new pitchman for Gillette. Patriots DB Marcus Jones lit the stadium on fire with his first offensive NFL touchdown with 4.46 left in the first quarter. The excitement level went through the roof. I’m thinking this is fantastic, and looking forward to see what else they have planned to unveil against Buffalo.
The disappointment descended somewhere in the third quarter when it dawned on me that was it. One wrinkle. The Pats shot their shot early and were done. That thought drained away any energy I had left for the game. It’s hard to care when the team doesn’t seem to.
Upon further review, it wasn’t all bad. It feels like the players are trying. They do care. They are passionate and let off some steam after the game. I’m all good with that. Shows some pride and competitiveness. Week 14 brings the last prime-time night game for the Patriots, as they head to Arizona to face the 4-8 Cardinals. As Bill Belichick said earlier this week, it’s probably too late to make big changes on offense at this stage of the season. But how about some small ones? Fundamentals. Situational football. Attention to detail. Game management... etc. It’s tough to see the team go down because of mistakes we used to laugh at other teams for making. The Patriots weren’t always the most talented, but they were the most disciplined. The team is missing that now, and win or lose, I’d like to see them get it back.
Monday night the Pats are favored by 1.5 points. I think they win this one and show some fire in the process.
Around the AFC East:
Indianapolis Colts (4-8-1) - Bye
10th - Nate Davis (USA Today): “The Patriot Way” is once again breaking fresh ground ... after all, how many other teams’ best offensive weapon is a rookie defensive back? [nc]
12th - Dalton Miller (ProFootballNetwork): The Patriots’ offense simply doesn’t have enough juice to consistently contend against quality opponents. Their passing attack has struggled all season, but it’s been the underwhelming rushing attack that has cost them the most on offense.
Losing Josh McDaniels has handicapped New England’s offense, and it’s difficult to imagine a scenario where they vastly improve things heading into 2023. But because Bill Belichick exists and their defense remains among the league’s best, they’ll continue to contend. [nc]
13th - Frank Schwab (Yahoo! Sports): Thursday night wasn’t close. The Bills absolutely dominated in every way. The Patriots will remain stuck in between resetting everything with a rebuild and being a legitimate contender. It’s a weird place to be in the NFL. [-2]
13th - Mike Florio (ProFootballTalk): Bill Belichick has built up a ton of equity over the years. He’s burning up plenty of it up this year. [-2]
14th - Austin Gayle (The Ringer): The Patriots offense is frustrating. Mac Jones was screaming on the sideline in the team’s blowout loss against the Bills. In an expletive-ridden outburst, Jones pleaded for his coaches to call more downfield passing concepts and stop calling so much quick game and underneath stuff. Unfortunately for Jones, Matt Patricia has been calling plays that way all year. The passing attack is predicated on even more shallow, quick-hitting routes than it was in Jones’s rookie season. The offense ranks 27th in total air yards on early downs and avoids downfield throws even in obvious passing situations. On second, third, and fourth downs of seven yards or more, the Patriots throw the ball 4.7 yards behind the sticks on average; no team in the NFL throws shorter in those situations. How much of this conservatism is Patricia’s style as a new offensive play caller with a defensive background versus a lack of trust in Jones or the Pats’ supporting cast is hard to determine, but the result is definitely worth screaming about. [-1]
14th - Trevor Land (FlurrySports). [nc]
15th - NFL Nation (ESPN): We’re No. 1 in... opposition net-punt average. Opponents have a 37-yard net-punting average against the Patriots, which ranks New England best in that category. A big part of that has been the emergence of rookie punt returner Marcus Jones (20 returns, 294 yards, 14.7 avg.), who has received some solid blocking in front of him, with longtime veteran Matthew Slater and up-and-coming rookie Brenden Schooler playing leading roles. — Mike Reiss. [-2]
15th - Conor Orr (SI): This is my last week rating the Patriots too high before I begin the process of dropping them like they’re the stick figure in the Mad Men opening credits. You hear me, Matt Patricia? One more chance—I’m not messing around anymore. [-2]
15th - Ryan Dunleavy (NY Post). [nc]
15th - Bryan Fischer (Athlon Sports): The Pats have scored more than 28 points just twice all year and Bill Belichick saying it’s too hard to make major changes to his offensive staff seems like a bigger sign that things are not great in New England right now on that side of the ball. [-1]
16th - Bo Wulf (The Athletic): Avoid negative plays. For a team supposedly built on a good defense and a ball-control offense, the Patriots offense has been as sloppy as any in the league. If we define negative plays as sacks, interceptions, fumbles and rushes for negative yards, New England’s offense has a negative play 14.5 percent of the time, per TruMedia. That’s the second-highest rate in the league, behind only the Bears. Oh, and apparently the quick game needs work. [-4]
17th - Pete Prisco (CBS Sports): Mac Jones and the passing game had major problems against the Bills. Is the offense fixable with Matt Patricia? [-3]
17th - Vinnie Iyer (Sporting News): The Patriots tried to operate smooth offense again with Mac Jones, but given his receivers, there’s not much there when Rhamondre Stevenson is contained out of the backfield. The defense is falling apart in key spots for Bill Belichick, too. [-1]
17th - Consensus (Bleacher Report): The New England Patriots are in trouble. Two weeks ago, the Pats were a 6-4 team very much in the mix in the AFC East. But after a close loss in Minnesota on Thanksgiving, the Patriots fell at home to the rival Bills on Thursday in a game where a lifeless Patriots offense failed to amass 250 yards. New England’s offensive struggles appeared to push quarterback Mac Jones over the edge—the second-year quarterback apologized Friday for a profanity-laced tirade on the sideline during the loss.
“Obviously, I just kind of let my emotions get to me,” Jones said. “What I said was about throwing it deeper within the short game. I got to execute that part better. But it’s the short game that we kept going to, which is working. But I felt like we needed chunk plays. I shouted that out to kind of get everyone going. That’s emotional. That’s football. I’m passionate about this game. Obviously, you don’t want to let your emotions get the best of you. I think that’s pretty much it. It wasn’t directed at anybody. Just emotion coming out. We kind of needed a spark.” ... [-3]
17th - Karen Guregian (Boston Herald): Who’s your daddy? Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills. No matter which way you slice it, Allen owns the Patriots. [-1]
18th - Matt Johnson (SportsNaut): The irony of the Patriots season is that Bill Belichick’s defense is being wasted by the same mind that thought Matt Patricia could call offensive plays. Relying on Patricia and Joe Judge was always a reckless decision, moves destined to backfire. It’s a shame because this defense is a treat to watch. [-3]
18th - Staff (The Score): One player for every team who must step up in the season’s final stretch: Mac Jones has taken a step back after an impressive rookie year. A strong finish to this season would help his chances of keeping the Patriots from looking elsewhere for next year’s starting quarterback. [-3]
19th - Dan Hanzus (NFL.com): The boo birds were once again out in Foxborough on Thursday night, as an ineffectual Patriots attack failed to keep up with the Bills in a deflating prime-time loss. Mac Jones’ sideline outburst (“Throw the f---ing ball! The quick game sucks!”) revealed the criticism extends beyond the paying customers at Gillette Stadium. On Monday, Bill Belichick acknowledged the issues, while also explaining the impracticality of a factory reset in the middle of December. “I think we need to do what we’re doing better. I don’t think at this point making a lot of dramatic changes — it’s too hard to do that,” Belichick said on WEEI’s The Greg Hill Show. That’s not what frustrated Patriots fans want to hear, but it’s probably as close as you’ll get to a Belichick admission he miscalibrated his operation in this regard. [-4]
19th - Josh Schrock (NBC Sports Chicago): If Matt Patricia is going to be the offensive coordinator next season, Mac Jones should demand a trade. What the Patriots are doing to their young quarterback is malpractice. [-4]
20th - Mark Lane (TouchdownWire): It’s too bad Edward Gibbon isn’t around to chronicle the decline of the New England Patriots. The once stalwarts of the AFC East are at .500 and need help, along with doing their part, to get back to the postseason. [-6]
AVG RANK: 15.7 [-2.0]