On behalf of Americans everywhere: I’m sorry, Germany.
Yesterday’s game between the New England Patriots and Indianapolis Colts may have set international relations back decades. It was just a terrible contest between one terrible team and one slightly less than terrible team in which the terrible team managed to even out-terrible themselves. Which, at this point in the season, I didn’t even think was possible.
Let’s get this over with.
1. I spent a few years in the early aughts living on the west coast in the Marina del Rey/L.A. area. Los Angeles was a great place to be young, single, and stupid, but since I’m now only one of those things, I don’t really miss it. The only exceptions are those mornings in February where I haven’t seen the sun in four months and it’s nine degrees out and I can’t but wonder what the hell I was thinking moving back east. And the other, of course, is football starting at 10 a.m. on Sundays. Waking up, hitting the bathroom, pouring yourself a cup of joe, and turning on a Pats game was the best way I could think of to start a Sunday.
2. Of course, back then the Patriots were actually a good team and more often than not I got to kick off my Sunday with a Patriots win before heading out into the California sunshine at 1:30 p.m.
3. For those of you not used to drinking coffee with your football — perhaps you’re more of a “it hisses when I pop the top” type of person — I know it can be a little weird. Maybe there a few of you out there who slipped a little something else in there to Irish up that coffee.
4. Though I’d like to hope that the feelings of unfamiliarity yesterday came more from the fact that the Patriots didn’t immediately go three-and-out to start the game. But I did think it was very nice of them to stall, take a sack, and settle for the field goal as soon as they got into the red zone. An opening drive Patriots touchdown at 9:45 in the morning would have been too big a shock to the system.
5. It was also extremely nice of the defense to allow us fans to ease into the morning by surrendering a 14-play, 75-yard, seven-minute touchdown drive to Gardner Minshew to bring some of that American familiarity to the game.
6. It also warmed my heart to see that, even for international games, the NFL will still take a commercial break with less than a minute left in the quarter, the offense will run two plays on the other side of the break, and then they’ll go to commercial again.
7. And an inside run on 2nd-and-forever! Ah, home sweet home.
8. Are there any coaches, or former coaches, or people with high-level football experience, reading this right now? If so, could you please get in touch with me ands explain the logic behind consistently running the ball up the gut on 2nd-and-very-long when you’re rarely gaining back more than two or three yards? The Patriots do it way too much for there to be no thought behind it, so it has to be something else. I’ll give you full credit and write a whole article on it, I promise. I just don’t see how turning 2nd-and-17 into 3rd-and-14 is a good use of a play.
9. I don’t know how many of the fans in the stands yesterday were Patriots fans... but they were infinitely louder than a completely sold-out Gillette Stadium.
10. I really don’t know what else there is to say at this point. The Patriots are an abject disaster at every possible level. The product they trot out week in and week out is embarrassing. They seem to have one good offensive drive in them per game, and then they run out of gas. The defense, as well as they play overall considering how depleted they are, can’t get a pass rush going and barely even have time to take their helmets off in between offensive three-and-outs.
11. We used to spend our regular seasons wondering how the Patriots would get to 12-4 and whether they’d be hosting the AFC Championship Game or if they’d be on the road. We’re now spending our regular season wondering how the Patriots are going to lose the game and whether this week’s turnover will be worse than last week’s.
12. Though I may have to retire the Worst Pick of the Week Award that I just made up right now, because the interception that Mac Jones threw to close this game out might have been his worst throw as a Patriot, which is saying something. He had a wide open Mike Gesicki running up the seam for a gimme score and all the time in the world. He felt phantom pressure, threw it off of his back foot, and hit Julian Blackmon right in the numbers. It was such a bad throw that Blackmon was clearly stunned that he just caught it; he kind of stops and looks around for a few seconds wondering how in the world that just happened before he took off running.
13. I should admit, though, that the game was not without some enjoyable moments. For example, I’m on a text thread with a few other Pats Pulpit contributors, and in addition to discussing scheduling articles and podcast stuff and whatnot we’ll sometimes communicate during Patriots games over whatever the hell it is we’re witnessing that day. Sometimes it’s a friendly discussion, sometimes the debate can get a little heated. And one of our more spicy exchanges so far in 2023 came yesterday at the end of the first half, when Mac Jones took what looked to be his fifth sack of the game, but he also may have gained half a yard so it didn’t actually count as a sack.
14. For the record, I’m staunchly on Team No Sack on that one. I known the stat line says five sacks, but he was only sacked four, dammit.
15. To that end... Mac Jones lined up for a Hail Mary to close out the first half and Indy only had four guys on the line. I half expected him to take a sack there as well.
16. If I’m an opposing offense and I’m facing a fourth down anywhere after my own 45-yard line, I’m going for it. Worst case scenario I don’t get it and New England gets the ball back 10 yards outside of field range. At least a 60 percent chance they don’t gain a first down and give it right back.
17. New England starting off the half with a huge turnover, running the ball with incredible success, then deciding to throw on third down and then missing the 35-yard field goal to generate no points is about as 2023 Patriots as it gets.
18. Like... why? 8-yard run. 6-yard run. 10-yard run. 2-yard run. 5-yard run. Incompletion. Missed field goal. The running game was one of the few bright spots yesterday, along with Demario Douglas, and it was working.
19. And how an offensive line can be so effective in run blocking and so inept in pass blocking is not something I have any desire to figure out. I’d rather just sit here and stew.
20. Another game, another round of absurd, insane flags. Yawn.
21. When you have two bad teams in a nationally televised game, it seems like you’d instruct the officiating crew to throw as few flags as possible. It’s already such an inferior product now even when you have good teams playing, to have the game have such little flow with so many dumb calls is just bad for everyone.
22. To those who have been screaming for Kayshon Boutte for weeks, I’m happy that you got your wish yesterday. Congrats to him for registering his first NFL reception — which in Mac Jones years, means he already has 50 grabs for 730 yards.
23. I do need to take a moment to acknowledge that it isn’t all on Jones. He has virtually no time to throw and nary a receiver outside of Pop Douglas that can get separation on the regular. But those problems and Jones’ problems are not mutually exclusive. He’s not finding the open receiver and he’s making terrible decisions. He has the yips and I don’t know if he’ll ever get out of them. But for now, I think it’s best for both him and for the team if he stays on the bench for a while.
24. To that end... something else that has come out of this season that I’m grateful for: I’ve been a fan of this team since the 80s. I’ve witnessed bad seasons and good seasons and amazing seasons and heartbreaking seasons. But never before in my football watching life, until yesterday, have I been excited to see the backup QB of my team come into the game with less than two minutes to play and the Patriots were trailing. Usually when your team has the ball with two minutes left in the game and you’re excited to see the backup in there, it’s because he’s serving as a human victory cigar and you’re three kneel-downs away from a W. But Bailey freaking Zappe got the ball on his own 14 with 1:51 to play and no timeouts and I believed in my soul that he gave the team the best chance to score a touchdown.
25. And that he went for a fake spike only to throw it right into triple coverage for a pick? Just chef’s kiss.
26. I will say, though, that minute and a half of Zappe was at least kind of fun. Any expectations of winning were long gone and I was excited to see what was going to happen. And honestly, other than the obvious, he made some nice throws. He had a laser to Hunter Henry for 11 yards, took a smart checkdown to Rhamondre Stevenson, and found Demario Douglas up the middle for 9. I have no delusions that Zappe is the guy — I repeat, ZAPPE IS NOT THE GUY — but I kind of think he’s who you ride with coming out of the bye.
27. Because I honestly don’t see how Mac Jones comes back from this, to be honest. To get benched for the third time for a backup during a winnable game after the performance he had during a season where his mental toughness was already called into question... Bill Belichick is obviously going to say nothing until about noon on November 26, but it’s completely reasonable to wonder who the Patriots QB will be for the rest of this dumpster fire of a season.
28. Gardner Minshew will be a Free Agent in 2024. Just sayin’.
I don’t think I’ve ever been this excited for a bye week before. Just make it stop.