The New England Patriots got in the win column for the first time this season, beating the Pittsburgh Steelers 17-14 on Sunday. Throughout the game, here’s who stood out, and who did not, for the Patriots.
Loser: QB Mac Jones. It was not all bad for Jones on Sunday, but the sophomore quarterback’s decision-making was shaky yet again. The results were an interception and another one that was dropped, while Jones also missed some opportunities elsewhere.
On the first interception, Jones fired a prayer downfield to DeVante Parker despite Pittsburgh’s two-high safety look. In the process, Jones missed an open Jakobi Meyers for the potential third down conversion. Jones also missed Meyers later in the game open in the flat for an easy conversion, instead forcing an incompletion to Jonnu Smith. He also had Lil’Jordan Humphrey open down field earlier in the contest but failed to see him.
While he is working through offensive changes with new coaches, Jones’ regression in this area through two weeks could become worrisome.
Winner: WR Jakobi Meyers. Speaking of Meyers, it was another impressive day for Jones’ go-to guy. Meyers led New England’s pass catchers in targets (13) and receptions (9) for the second straight week, while his 95 receiving yards marked the fourth highest total of his career. It was just another day in the office for “Mr. Clutch”, as Damien Harris nicknamed Meyers post-game.
Winner: WR Nelson Agholor. Sticking with wide receivers, Agholor had perhaps his best game in a Patriot uniform, eclipsing the 100-yard mark for the first time in New England. The highlight of the day came on his 44-yard touchdown reception when the Patriots were desperate for a big play.
Agholor was able to high point the ball and keep his balance on his way into the end zone. He finished with six receptions for 110 yards and that score.
NELSON. AGHOLOR.— New England Patriots (@Patriots) September 18, 2022
: #NEvsPIT on @NFLonCBS pic.twitter.com/zA0sH2gzLq
Losers: TE Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry. It was a no-show from the Patriots tight end duo on Sunday, as neither Smith or Henry hauled in any of their combined four targets. The duo also saw less time on the field together as the Patriots relied on their 11 personnel package instead of the two-tight end sets they used extensively in Week 1.
Winner: Offensive line. It wasn't a perfect day for New England’s offensive line as they were a handful of penalties and one bad stretch of plays in the first half. But, Mac Jones had noticeable time in the pocket and did not get sacked once. The unit also opened up some quality holes in the run game as they turned back the clocks to their gap/power-scheme, helping them milk the clock in their game-clinching drive.
“Offensive line played amazing, didn’t really get hit,” Mac Jones said. “Hats off to them. Run game, pass game, they made it work. That’s something I was really proud of.”
It’s interesting to note the unit’s strong play came with a change of plans from the coaching staff. Assistant offensive line coach Billy Yates was on the sideline for the entirety of the game after spending the first half of games in the booth throughout the preseason and in Week 1. Whether the change contributed to the performance or not, it was a noteworthy switch.
Also, rookie Cole Strange’s play against Cameron Hayward was impressive.
So so impressed with Pats rookie Cole Strange today… Some big boy 1-on-1 reps vs Cam Heyward pic.twitter.com/4AjFrupT8i— Ben Fennell (@BenFennell_NFL) September 18, 2022
Winner: LB Matthew Judon. Judon recorded a clean-up sack near the end of the first half, but his best play of the day came in pass coverage. Guarding dynamic second-year running back Najee Harris out of the backfield on a wheel route, Judon stuck with him and was able to force an incompletion. The Patriots would be best letting Judon do what he does best as a pass rusher moving forward, but he made the play when it mattered on Sunday.
Honorable mentions: While the offensive line opened up some quality holes throughout the day, both Rhamondre Stevenson and Damien Harris ran hard, averaging just under a combined 5.0 yards per carry.
Linebacker Mack Wilson Sr. made an impressive play in pass coverage, reading Mitchell Trubisky’s eyes and knocking a pass in the air that cornerback Jalen Mills was able to intercept.
Jabrill Peppers didn't play a major role on defense — likely as he continues to work back up to speed following last year’s ruptured ACL — but he impressed in his action. He made a strong pair of open field tackles on one of Pittsburgh’s drives.
For the second straight game, DeVante Parker was a no-show for the Patriots offense. He did not haul in either of his targets — one being a poor under throw by Mac Jones — but has now has just one catch for nine yards on four targets in his Patriot career. Two of those targets have resulted in interceptions.