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Patriots vs. Raiders: Fan Notes from the Preseason

Some meaningless observations from Week 3 of the preseason.

NFL: New England Patriots at Las Vegas Raiders Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Week 3 used to be considered the dress rehearsal, the game where the starters played a full half, and maybe even a few snaps into the third quarter, before ceding time to the backups. If there was ever a preseason game to overanalyze, Week 3 was it. But with Mac Jones and the starters only seeing a quarter and a half - and looking pretty lousy in those reps - I’m going to choose to just completely mail these Fan Notes in and take a mulligan before I spend the next four months doing real, actual analysis. Let’s just get rid of preseason games altogether going forward.

  • If you happen to be of the opinion that anything at all that takes place during preseason games is indicative of where your team is and what kind of season they’ll have, I would imagine last night’s game didn’t leave you feeling even remotely optimistic. The starters, playing against backups, looked mostly terrible. Mac Jones was inaccurate and made a few terrible decisions. The offensive line has been a mess all August. The team didn’t sniff the end zone all night and the defense gave up a fair number of chunk plays. In what used to be a dress rehearsal game, you’d prefer to leave feeling at least a little confident in what you’ve been seeing up to this point.
  • And since the only group worse than Patriots fans when it comes to overreacting and defaulting to apocalyptic pessimism is Patriots media, it would appear that we can officially close the books on the 2022 season with 8/26/22 as the date inscribed on the tombstone.
  • I, however, have always lived by the following adage: if your team looks good in the preseason, it’s a surefire sign that good things are on the horizon when the games start to matter. If your team looks bad, not to worry; it’s just the preseason and they’ll turn it all around in September. So let’s all take a breath.
  • That said - yeah, it was bad. And not even in the sense that plays weren’t working or coverages were blown; there just seemed to be some basic fundamentals that were completely missing last night. Staying with blockers. Or at least not pushing your defender directly into the quarterback like you’re giving him a boost to reach the first branch of a tree. Opening lanes. Getting basic separation. Wrapping runners up. Finishing tackles. Throwing directly to your receiver instead of theirs. Not biting on the playaction harder than Spike when he bit on Becky O’Shea’s fake reverse. I’ve never paid any attention to the score, but I do like to get a sense that the Patriots didn’t completely how to forget how to play football over the offseason.
  • But these things aren’t remotely uncommon with this team, and I have the receipts to prove it.
  • Tommy B went 8 for 13 with a pick against the Bengals in August of 2004. Carson Palmer threw three TDs and scored on his first three possessions as the Bengals won 31-3.
  • Week 3 of the 2011 preseason saw the Patriots get absolutely manhandled by the Detroit Lions to the tune of 34-10.
  • Washington took the 2014 preseason Patriots down 23-6 where absolutely nothing went right.
  • Those seasons all saw Super Bowl appearances for this team. So pump the brakes a little.
  • Having watched Scott Zolak call Patriots preseason games for as long as I have, I think it’s safe to assume that every franchise has their version of him; some player that spent the bulk of their career with their team, completely lost their marbles at some point, and now makes a living shuffling around the stadium in a bathrobe they forgot to fasten conducting interviews and spitting out some absolute soundbyte gold. So I propose that for one week every regular season, all of these guys get to jump into the booth and call an actual game. No straight man, just one nutjob team guy from each squad in there fighting for airtime and unknowingly fighting for the title of stupidest comment of the year. I nominate Week 5, but will take suggestions.
  • Jarrett Stidham handing off to Jakob Johnson for the Raiders’ first snap of this game tells you everything you need to know about this matchup.
  • The Raiders, facing a 4th and 2 at the Patriots 5 yard line, opted for the field goal. I never understood that. Why not go for it? No need to show a key play you’re going to pull out in the regular season. Just get a lineman out there, hand him the ball, and let the magic weave itself.
  • If we’re being honest here, I’m not even 100% sure I can take what I saw out of the starting defensive unit - Godchaux, Guy, Barmore, Judon, Jennings, Bentley, Tavai, Dugger, Jones, Mills, McCourty - is any kind of indicator of what the final unit will be.
  • Absolutely no idea what Mac Jones was looking at on that pick. Threw it right into Masterson’s waiting arms. Kendrick Bourne was sitting in the middle of the zone and open, but you need to be aware of the linebacker in the under zones. Maybe he was just getting sweaty and wanted to head back to the sidelines for a drink.
  • Pierre Strong saw some time as a kick returner and Marcus Jones returned punts. With Ty Montgomery sidelined, that may be Strong’s best bet to see some legit action this season.
  • The good news on Montgomery is that he limped off the field, returned to New England with the team, and it’s being noted as an ankle injury. It’s rare that ankle injuries are season-ending, particularly ones with which you can still walk, so here’s hoping he’ll be OK.
  • I also can’t ever really help but wonder, in these games where the backups are dominating the starters, if you have to factor in the motivation. If you’re a roster lock playing in a completely meaningless game where your main goal is to stay healthy, it’s more probable than not that you may at least be generally aware that you have a lot less to lose that a player who knows that his performance during this game is going to have a massive impact on his future and whether or not he gets to live out a dream he’s had since he was five years old.
  • Biggest bright spots of this game for me were Kevin Harris running well, Rhamondre Stevenson showing some nice vision on the cutback lanes, Bailey Zappe getting in some more meaningful reps, and the continued emergence of Jack Jones. Way to early to make any calls, but you have to be happy overall with what we’ve seen out of this rookie class.

I have two more Sundays left where I can actually be a real human being, then it’s back to revolving my entire life around a three hour game in which the ball is only actually in play for about 11 minutes. I’ll be missing out on gorgeous weather and highly enjoyable activities as I sit in a dimly lit bar or my disgusting, outdated recliner sweating out the results of a contest I have no control over played by men who have zero clue I even exist.

And all of that can’t get here soon enough.