It is a low bar, but at least there were a few positives to take away from the game. We will have in-depth analysis throughout the day and week, but for now here are some quick-hit thoughts on the Patriots’ fifth defeat of the year.
1. Kendrick Bourne was a rare bright spot on the Patriots offense: The Patriots don’t have a ton of talent at wide receiver, but the best one they have is Kendrick Bourne. He has had a tough time getting going this year, but had an excellent game on Sunday against the Raiders. He showed some real explosiveness after the catch, and he was Mac Jones’ favorite target throughout the day, finishing with 10 catches for 89 yards as well as one 4-yard carry.
“The plays that happen are a group effort, it’s not just me, it’s everybody being on the same page,” Bourne said about his effort after the game. “I think we’re doing a good job of making plays. We need to make the plays when we need them.”
Sunday’s game brought back the Kendrick Bourne that we saw flashes of in 2021, and the hope is that he will be able to build off of this performance.
2. DeVante Parker is contributing little to the offense right now: The Patriots extended DeVante Parker before the season in an apparent sign of confidence compared to free agency options such as DeAndre Hopkins. Six weeks into the season, this looks like a miscalculation on the team’s part.
Parker has only 12 catches in five games this year, and consistently loses on routes. And then, at the end of the game, down only two points, Mac Jones made arguably the best throw of his season so far, and Parker just flat-out dropped it.
The play could have put the Patriots in position to try a game-winning field goal, but instead they ended up losing on a safety instead.
Those are the types of plays that Parker is here for — and was extended to make — but he simply has not made them this year. The Patriots will probably not do it due to a lack of depth at the moment, but reducing Parker’s role to see if they can get anyone else to make some plays out there might make sense. The recently returned Tyquan Thornton or rookie Kayshon Boutte come to mind.
3. Mac Jones is just not good enough, again: Mac Jones had an up-and-down day. He led the Patriots on two scoring drives in the second half, but also threw a really bad interception, and, on one of those scoring drives, almost threw another one. He finished with exactly 200 yards passing, and, as mentioned, was let down by DeVante Parker on the final drive.
At the end of the day, Jones is trying to do too much, and has not been good enough to give the team a real chance to win. He still does not look like the guy for the long term.
“It’s just been not good. It starts with me as a quarterback,” Jones himself said on Sunday. “Definitely going to look at the process and see where I can get better to get better results. I know we’re all working really hard; we all really care for each other, and we have a good group of guys. I know it’s frustrating for everybody — we’re the most frustrated there can be — just have to watch the film with truthful eyes.”
At the very least, Sunday was a reminder that he can make some plays. Will that be enough for the Patriots to win some more games this year? We will see, but it should make the team more fun to watch.
4. The running game finally finds some traction: The Patriots’ running game finally made some headway on Sunday. Both Ezekiel Elliott and Rhamondre Stevenson ran well, combining for 80 yards on 70 carries and a pair of touchdowns.
The Patriots are going to have to continue to run, and run even better than they did on Sunday, to give themselves a chance this season. Elliott in particular looked like he still has plenty of miles left on Sunday.
Hopefully, as the offensive line gets more healthy, the running lanes will be better and both he and Stevenson will have more success.
5. Offensive line struggles a constant: Cole Strange and Michael Onwenu are both still hurt, meaning that the product on the field is naturally not going to look clean. That said, the offensive line was again unable to protect Mac Jones well enough on Sunday.
On the final sack that resulted in a game-clinching safety, Raiders Pro Bowler Maxx Crosby was first chipped by Mike Gesicki, and then blocked by Vederian Lowe. Lowe barely got a hand on him, and it led to an easy takedown.
Under normal circumstances, the Patriots would not be able trot out Lowe and Atonio Mafi and expect to compete this year. Yes, Strange and Onwenu coming back should help, but not only are they both still banged up the questions at right tackle continue to loom large.
Maybe Sidy Sow is going to be the answer after looking decent at right guard Sunday, but there is no guarantee that the solution to New England’s offensive line problems is currently on the roster. They team has tried out a bunch of combinations, and almost none of them have worked, and maybe one of them will.
Ultimately, though, they need to find something better than Sunday’s product to be competitive.
6. Jabrill Peppers is really good: Jabrill Peppers has been one of the only bright spots for the Patriots this season, and he continued his strong play on Sunday. He had a vicious (and completely legal) hit on Devante Adams that led to a Jahlani Tavai interception, and was around the ball all night in both pass and run coverage.
It is hard to imagine where the Patriots defense, which has been riddled with injuries, would be without Peppers.
7. Anfernee Jennings steps up in a bigger role: When Matthew Judon went out with a biceps injury, other guys were going to have to step up on the Patriots’ edge. One of those has been Anfernee Jennings, who is becoming a solid piece on the edge for the Patriots.
The fourth-year man has gotten more snaps, and excelled at stopping runs at the point of attack. He doesn’t have the pass rushing ability of Judon, obviously, but his ability to set the edge and keep running plays in front of him, and even get in the backfield at times, has been a big help for the defense.
Look for Jennings to continue to play on running downs, and hopefully build upon what he has done on passing downs as well.
8. Christian Barmore was a monster Sunday: Christian Barmore has been a bit quiet for the Patriots this season, but he stepped up big on Sunday. He wasn’t able to get after the quarterback too much, but he was a force in the ground game. With so many guys down, it is going to come down to other guys to step up, and Barmore did just that on Sunday.
9. Injuries continue to pile up: The Patriots already were thin at multiple positions. entering the game, with Jonathan Jones, Josh Uche and Keion White all leaving the game with injuries.
The injury bug has bitten the Patriots this year, and they are struggling to be able to field a competitive team because of it. We did see Tyquan Thornton come back Sunday, and the hope is that Jack Jones will be back in the coming weeks as well, which should help. For now, however, they are going to have to make do with what they have while hoping that no other players get banged up.
10. The next two weeks look rough: Coming off their loss to the Raiders, the Patriots have back-to-back division games coming up. First, they will host the Buffalo Bills next weekend, and then they will travel to Miami to take on the Dolphins the week after that.
For a team that hasn’t been able to score points, that is a tough proposition. It remains to be seen how competitive they will be, but right now, it seems foolish to think that they have a good chance to win either of those games. Maybe they will figure something out, but, barring a miracle turnaround, the Patriots might be headed for 1-7, and there is simply no coming back from that.
It might be a long season, so let’s hope they make the most of it. If the Patriots indeed travel down that road, the hope is that they will let the young guys play, so they can see what they have in them and if they are able to help moving forward. With every new loss, the focus shift further toward the future.