Bill O’Brien is not a bad offensive coordinator. Last week he could have created the most amazing offensive game plan in the world but would still likely come out of the game with his unit shut out and the team reeling from yet another loss — A loss placed squarely on the shoulders of the offense, and given zero field-position help by the team’s mostly inept special teams.
O’Brien’s current gameboard has the wrong instructions, and too many pieces are either missing or broken to give all but the NFL’s worst defensive coordinators even a hint of a challenge. At this point he can direct the players he has all he wants, but they aren’t capable of doing what they need to do to win. Tough spot to be in.
The obvious next strategy would be to start rookie QB/WR Malik Cunningham. Maybe his mobility could help him escape pressure a smidge better than either Bailey Zappe or Mac Jones. But opposing defensive coordinators know that too.
Aside from protecting the young potential signal-caller from being thrown into the woodchipper, the main reason I can think of for Bill Belichick not to play Cunningham at some point, is that they just might possibly win a game.
Around the AFC East:
31st - Karen Guregian (MassLive): Look at the bright side. They moved up into the No. 2 spot in the draft order.
31st - NFL Nation (ESPN): Pleasant surprise: S Jabrill Peppers. Peppers’ 63 tackles rank 4th on the team as he has transitioned from part-time player in 2022 (35.3% playing time) to full-time player in 2023 (95.3% playing time). He has also taken on more of a leadership role on a defense that ranks 8th in total yards allowed (310.5). — Mike Reiss.
31st - Conor Orr (SI): There are times, like on Sunday, where I will bounce back to the idea that perhaps Bill Belichick and Robert Kraft have so delicately shielded this tanking operation, cloaking their secret desire to attain either Caleb Williams or Drake Maye in a series of unfounded reports and media speculation. Not correcting the narrative on the end of Belichick’s days in New England would throw old Goodell and Boss Hog off the scent. It’s not just brilliant, it’s classic Patriots. The guy isn’t even giving direct answers when asked if he wants to be here. Classic subterfuge!
31st - Vinnie Iyer (Sporting News): The Patriots found a way to field even more inept offense after a QB change with an embarrassing 6-0 loss at home. Bill Belichick has now hit rock bottom post Tom Brady and it won’t get better vs. Mike Tomlin and the Steelers on a short week.
31st - Danny Kelly (The Ringer): The Patriots kept their tank job alive on Sunday by losing a winnable game to the Chargers 6-0. It’s gotta be encouraging for Pats fans that the team’s defense has performed well of late—that unit has held opponents to 10 points or fewer in three straight games. But the team’s again-pathetic offensive output reinforced the need for a complete overhaul on that side of the ball. After Rhamondre Stevenson left the game with an ankle injury, the Patriots offense took on the distinct feel of a group that was built by someone who hasn’t watched the NFL in, like, three years. QB problems aside, this skill group has no juice: Ezekiel Elliott is well past his prime, JuJu Smith-Schuster is not an impact player, DeVante Parker probably wouldn’t see the field on 31 other teams, and both Hunter Henry and Mike Gesicki have been big free agent disappointments. New England needs to secure the highest pick it possibly can in next year’s draft and use it to help fix this broken group.
31st - Mike Florio (ProFootballTalk): Half-empty stadium, nearly-empty cupboard. Fortunately for the Pats, they still have a fully-stocked trophy case.
31st - Eric Edholm (NFL.com): The Patriots have held seven opponents to 24 points or fewer this season — and they only won one of those games. That’s not even the most amazing statistic related to this team’s offensive stagnation. In their past three games, they’ve held each opponent to 10 or fewer points — and they lost all three. Meanwhile, in Week 13 alone, three other NFL teams won games in which they allowed 28 points or more. At this point, it feels like you could put Mac Jones, Bailey Zappe, Malik Cunningham or even Steve Grogan out there at quarterback, and it likely wouldn’t make a difference. Rhamondre Stevenson was hurt Sunday, and New England is already without multiple receivers, so a bad situation has somehow gotten worse. Even by early 1990s standards, this Patriots season has been pretty dreadful.
31st - Pete Prisco (CBS Sports): The offense is so bad they couldn’t even score on the Chargers. Does it matter who plays quarterback?
31st - Frank Schwab (Yahoo! Sports): The Patriots being shut out by a bad Chargers team at home was a new low, but the real story for New England was happening in Pittsburgh. The Cardinals won their third game, opening up the path for the Patriots to cruise to a top-two pick and a new era at quarterback. The Patriots have four tough opponents (Steelers, Chiefs, Broncos, Bills) and only one bad one (Jets) remaining. Because the Patriots are likely to beat the Cardinals in the tiebreaker (weaker strength of schedule gets the better pick, and New England has the weaker SOS right now), New England would probably need to win at least twice to screw up getting a top two pick.
31st - Jarrett Bailey (TouchdownWire): The Patriots have allowed the fewest points in the league over the last four weeks- they’ve lost all four games.
31st - Dalton Miller (ProFootballNetwork): If we all try hard enough, we can simply act like this game didn’t exist. There were 15 punts between the Patriots and the Los Angeles Chargers. The longest run by a running back by either team was nine yards. Although the weather was far from ideal, Bailey Zappe and the passing attack couldn’t get anything going throughout the day either.
31st - Nate Davis (USA Today): They became the first team in 85 years to lose three consecutive games despite not allowing more than 10 points in any of them. Do it again Thursday night at Pittsburgh, and the Pats will match the 1938 Chicago Cardinals’ run of ineptitude.
31st - Josh Schrock (NBC Sports Chicago): The Patriots have now lost three straight games in which the opponent has scored 10 points or fewer. No team has done that since 1938. Drake Maye, come on down!
31st - Consensus (Bleacher Report): In the most miserable season in New England in two decades, the Patriots keep finding ways to add new misery to the pile. Sunday against the Chargers, the Patriots lost a fifth straight game for the first time since 1995. This is the first time Bill Belichick has been shut out twice in a season. ... The Patriots are a complete disaster offensively. Bailey Zappe was just as putrid under center as Mac Jones has been. There’s no quick fix for the dumpster fire the team has become. The franchise is going to have to be blown up. New England has to start from scratch. And one of the first steps once the season ends is parting ways with the most successful head coach the NFL has ever known.
31st - Matt Johnson (SportsNaut): There’s a reason beat reporters mentioned that Bailey Zappe had multiple opportunities in the summer and this season to earn the starting job and he never drew the nod until now. Plain and simple, the New England Patriots don’t have a starting-caliber quarterback nor do they have the offensive weapons that could even muster a below-average offense. At this point, pairing a new head coach with Drake Maye is probably best for the Patriots’ future.
32nd - Staff (The Score): The Patriots are in signal-caller hell right now. They have 418 passing yards combined over their last three games, with the team scoring 13 points during that stretch. Would any QB please step up? [-1]
AVG RANK: 31.1 [-0.1]