In the words of Lloyd Christmas as he noticed some gentlemen enjoying their Big Gulps: “Welp, see ya later.”
The 2023 New England Patriots season has, for all intents and purposes, come to an end. The team is sitting at 1-4 after yet another blowout loss, this time a shutout at home, and even without a stacked AFC they haven’t shown a thing that makes me think they’ll be anything remotely resembling a contender this year. I came into the season sincerely believing that the Patriots could get into the playoffs as a wild card, go on the road and get a win, and if enough went their way they might pull off a divisional round upset.
But also in the words of Lloyd Christmas as he looks on the briefcase for a potential last name: “I was way off.”
This team stinks, plain and simple.
1. I usually jot down what eventually becomes my Fan Notes while I’m watching the game itself, then go back and try and make sense of them after it’s over and I’ve had the chance to sober up a bit. But I was at this debacle live, my first in-person Pats game since 2019, and I was too busy drowning my sorrows in $9 beers to write anything on my phone. I’d go back and watch the highlights to jog my memory of the game, but what highlights?
2. And I mean that sincerely, what highlights? Can any of you remember a single positive play the Patriots made? The defense sacked Derek Carr twice, and there was that one throw to Demario Douglas on the only offensive drive longer than 35 yards, so I guess there are those. But what else?
3. Speaking of that 24-yard Douglas grab, that single catch was enough for him to be New England’s second-leading receiver on the day. The winner here is Kendrick Bourne, who hauled in a whopping two catches for 43 yards.
4. On the plus side, the Patriots obliterated Bourne’s receiving total on the ground. As a team, they managed to gain 45 rushing yards. As the Tush Push takes the league by storm, the Patriots have lost yards trying it, they have now turned the ball over trying it, and they failed to convert on 4th-and-2 as well.
5. I just realized that I lied when I said I didn’t write anything down at the game itself; I’m on record at 1:49 p.m. ET on a text thread with some of my fellow Pats Pulpit writers typing “That’s the game and the season. They’re not coming back from this down 14-0.” It’s not that I was right; doesn’t take much to be correct about that. It’s more that I typed it with 14 minutes still left in the second quarter and was as certain about it as I’m certain that I haven’t been able to fit into a size 36 jeans for over a decade now. It’s just beyond wild to me that as soon as this team goes down two scores, the game is over.
6. Of course, you could probably just say down a touchdown, because there have now been 33 consecutive drives that didn’t see this offense cross the goal line. The last Patriots player to put the ball in the end zone was Pharaoh Brown, who scored on a 58-yard busted coverage catch and run. The last time this offense ran a play in the red zone came back in the fourth quarter of Week 2 against the Dolphins. The last time Mac Jones threw a touchdown pass was... well, it was yesterday. He also threw a touchdown pass against the Cowboys as well.
7. Mac Jones is not the guy. He just isn’t. He was never going to be the most athletic QB out there, or the one with the strongest arm, but he was a cerebral quarterback who made good decisions, got the ball to the right receiver, and knew when to make a quick release. He’s doing none of that now and some of his throws would make Brucie from The Longest Yard cringe.
8. And Zappe ain’t the guy either. I don’t know who is, but I don’t think he’s on this roster. At least I haven’t seen any calls for Malik Cunningham yet. I’m sure that they’re out there, I just have been keeping myself sane by staying off of Twitter.
9. It’s now terribly, terribly clear that without Matthew Judon and Christian Gonzalez, this defense has lost a whole lot of its funk. You don’t concede 69 points in two games as a good defense unless you’re making some kind of bizarre, desperate play to get Rob Gronkowski to come out of retirement and suit up for his old team.
10. There’s still some real talent on this defense, but Derek Carr and the Saints are a middling team that slapped them up and down the field yesterday. You kind of have to wonder if there’s just no fire coming out of the locker room. Can New England bring Devin McCourty on as a pregame speech consultant or something?
11. I will say that, unlike many this morning, I don’t want Bill Belichick fired. If he’s starting to shift uncomfortably in his seat as the cushions start to warm, then fine, but I still think that he’s an all-time great coach and I do feel that he’ll be able to put together a good team. It’s just not this one. It’s a two horse race between New England and Arizona for worst roster of 2023.
12. It’s depressing to think about how well this team played in Week 1 and they’ve played significantly worse with each subsequent outing. We went from, “We hung with the Eagles, hell yeah!” to “Fins are good, we could have won there, just need to play better earlier” to “Glad we beat the Jets, time to play better and turn it around” to “Man, that was bad, hope they can shake this off and come out strong next week” to “Um... yeah. This blows.”
13. Everyone is injured, too. Or maybe nobody is injured, but they just don’t want to play anymore.
14. Tyquan Thornton will be back soon, guys! There’s hope yet!
15. In terms of where to go from here, I’ve decided to lean into it. Embrace the suck, if you will. I don’t think I’m capable of rooting for losses or tanking for a top-3 draft pick (no judgment if you are, I just don’t think I can do it), but I do think I’m capable of appreciating a train wreck game for what it is. Can Mac Jones finish the season with more pick-sixes than touchdowns? Will a Patriots running back have one 100-yard game?
16. The biggest quandary for me is whether or not the second worst loss of Belichick’s career is actually the worst loss of his career since the second worst loss came immediately after the worst loss, which I think is enough to make the second worst loss the worst loss.
The Patriots shouldn’t be favored in any game going forward. They’re going to win a few this season, but they’re going to lose a lot more than they win. I’ll be around for all of it, you can’t just watch when a team is good, but I think I’ll start paying a lot more attention to those college kids than I usually do. I need a few players to get excited about in 2024 when New England has the third overall pick in the NFL Draft that they trade for five second-rounders and a 2027 third.
Anybody have any aspirin?