The New England Patriots offense had its worst day of the 2023 season, mustering just one field goal and turning the ball over three times in a 38-3 loss to the Dallas Cowboys. The unit’s positive moments were few and far in between, but rookie wide receiver Demario Douglas was one notable exception.
Despite playing only 18 of a possible 55 offensive snaps on the day — a rate of 33 percent — the sixth-round draft pick made his impact felt. He caught two passes for a combined 45 yards, including a big 42-yard pickup to convert a 3rd-and-6 on the Patriots’ first drive of the day.
While Douglas continues to showcase his elusiveness and playmaking abilities with the ball in his hands, the Patriots continue using him in a relatively small role. Against the Cowboys, he was the team’s fourth wide receiver behind DeVante Parker (45; 82%), Kendrick Bourne (29; 53%) and JuJu Smith-Schuster (26; 47%), and also saw fewer reps than all three of the team’s tight ends.
For a team in need of any help it can get on the offensive side of the ball, keeping as dynamic a player as Douglas sidelined for much of its games continues to be a curious decision — at least from the outside. Head coach Bill Belichick, meanwhile, seems to agree that getting him more involved is on the Patriots’ list of priorities.
“Pop continues to show off his speed and quickness and has the ability to create some space, especially in man coverage,” Belichick told WEEI’s The Greg Hill Show on Monday. “Hopefully we can get him going in the return game as well as offensively.”
As for the other usage-based takeaways from the Patriots’ loss in Dallas, here is our weekly snap count report.
Total snaps: 55
LT Trent Brown* (55; 100%), LG Atonio Mafi* (55; 100%), C David Andrews* (55; 100%), RG Michael Onwenu* (55; 100%), RT Vederian Lowe* (55; 100%), WR DeVante Parker* (45; 82%), TE Hunter Henry* (44; 80%), QB Mac Jones* (40; 73%), RB Rhamondre Stevenson* (35; 64%), TE Mike Gesicki* (33; 60%), WR Kendrick Bourne (29; 53%), WR JuJu Smith-Schuster (26; 47%), TE Pharaoh Brown* (22; 40%), RB Ezekiel Elliott (22; 40%), WR Demario Douglas (18; 33%), QB Bailey Zappe (15; 27%), RB/WR Ty Montgomery II (1; 2%)
The biggest story coming out of Sunday’s game was Mac Jones being pulled late in the third period. The Patriots’ starting quarterback had thrown two interceptions and lost a fumble — including two giveaways returned for touchdowns — and directly or indirectly contributing to 22 of the Cowboys’ points. His day ended after 40 snaps, with the final 15 going to backup Bailey Zappe.
As for the tight end group mentioned above, Hunter Henry was the clear No. 1 option again, playing 44 snaps and leading the team with four catches for 51 yards. Mike Gesicki and Pharaoh Brown, who both started the game as well, were also extensively featured.
As for the running backs, it was business as usual: Rhamondre Stevenson and Ezekiel Elliott were the only ones seeing action in the backfield — Ty Montgomery lined up in the slot on his lone offensive snap — but getting limited space to work with behind a shaky offensive line: the unit, which again featured rookie Atonio Mafi in a starting role, did go wire-to-wire, but it had its problems against a talented Dallas front.
Total snaps: 70
CB Myles Bryant* (70; 100%), S Jabrill Peppers* (70; 100%), S Kyle Dugger* (63; 90%), LB Ja’Whaun Bentley* (63; 90%), CB Shaun Wade* (62; 89%), LB Jahlani Tavai* (46; 66%), DE Deatrich Wise Jr.* (43; 61%), DT Christian Barmore (43, 61%), ED Matthew Judon* (41; 59%), LB/S Marte Mapu (35; 50%), DT Lawrence Guy Sr.* (34; 49%), DT Davon Godchaux* (34; 49%), ED Anfernee Jennings (28; 40%), DE Keion White (27; 39%), CB/S Jalen Mills (26; 37%), ED Josh Uche (18; 26%), CB Christian Gonzalez* (18; 26%), S Adrian Phillips (16; 23%), LB Mack Wilson Sr. (13; 19%), DT Sam Roberts (13; 19%), DT Jeremiah Pharms Jr. (7; 10%)
The Patriots defense had to watch two of its best players go down on Sunday. First was rookie cornerback Christian Gonzalez, who had played all but one defensive snap entering the game. However, a shoulder injury knocked him out in the first quarter and put more pressure on the depth at the position. As a consequence, Myles Bryant and Shaun Wade ended up playing 70 and 62 of a possible 70 snaps, respectively.
With their depth tested yet again, the Patriots also turned to versatile defensive back Jalen Mills: 21 of his season-high 26 snaps came in the slot. In case Gonzalez misses time due to his injury, Mills’ opportunities as a cornerback might increase even further.
The other significant injury was suffered by edge defender Matthew Judon. The Pro Bowler hurt his biceps in the fourth period and was unable to finish the game, opening the door for Anfernee Jennings, Josh Uche and Keion White to see added snaps. The expectation is that all three of them will receive prominent reps during Judon’s absence, however long it might be.
As for the rest of the front seven, there were few surprises. Ja’Whaun Bentley and Jahlani Tavai are the one-two punch at the off-ball linebacker spot, with Deatrich Wise Jr., Christian Barmore, Lawrence Guy and Davon Godchaux the primary interior linemen.
What is noteworthy, though, is that third-round rookie Marte Mapu set a new career-high with 35 snaps on defense. He primarily aligned off the ball this time, but also saw action as a free safety, slot defender and even split out wide on a couple of occasions.
Total snaps: 26
S Adrian Phillips (24; 92%), WR Matthew Slater (24; 92%), S Brenden Schooler (24; 92%), LB Chris Board (24; 92%), LB Jahlani Tavai (21; 81%), LB/S Marte Mapu (17; 65%), LB Mack Wilson Sr. (17; 65%), RB/WR/KR Ty Montgomery II (15; 58%), TE Pharaoh Brown (12; 46%), CB Ameer Speed (12; 46%), DT Lawrence Guy Sr. (9; 35%), DE Keion White (9; 35%), S Kyle Dugger (8; 31%), ED Josh Uche (8; 31%), CB Myles Bryant (7; 27%), DE Deatrich Wise Jr. (7; 27%), DT Sam Roberts (7; 27%), P/H Bryce Baringer (7; 27%), LS Joe Cardona (7; 27%), S Jabrill Peppers (5; 19%), K Chad Ryland (4; 15%), G Atonio Mafi (2; 8%), G Michael Onwenu (2; 8%), OT Trent Brown (2; 8%), WR/PR Demario Douglas (2; 8%), CB Shaun Wade (2; 8%), ED Anfernee Jennings (2; 8%), OT Calvin Anderson (2; 8%), OL Jake Andrews (2; 8%), OL Sidy Sow (2; 8%)
Between missing a 52-yard field goal, gaining negative 2 yards on the only punt return of the day, and getting burned by a pass play on a point-after try, New England’s special teams unit had a rough day against Dallas. As far as the personnel used is concerned, there were no major shakeups compared to the earlier parts of the season.
Demario Douglas continues to return punts with All-Pro Marcus Jones on injured reserve, whereas Ty Montgomery did not run back any of Dallas’ eight kickoffs. Adrian Phillips, whose role on defense can best be described as “minor,” is still seeing heavy snaps in the game’s third phase, including as the personal protector of punter Bryce Baringer.
Did not play
With Bailey Zappe replacing Mac Jones in the late third quarter, the Patriots used all 48 men on their game day roster — a first this season.
QB Will Grier, CB Jonathan Jones, G Cole Strange, OT Tyrone Wheatley Jr., WR Kayshon Boutte
The Patriots’ inactives list was headlined by two starters. Cornerback Jonathan Jones missed a third straight game because of an ankle injury suffered in the preparation for Week 2, while left guard Cole Strange was out due to a knee ailment sustained last Sunday against the New York Jets.
The other inactives were all healthy scratches, including emergency quarterback — and ex-Cowboy — Will Grier.