The Pats had a chance to win it on the final drive, but came up short. PIC: David Silverman/New England Patriots
A game that simply didn't ever feel close could've nearly been won by the New England Patriots on the final drive of the game.
They were down 10-0. They were down 17-3. 24-10. But somehow, someway, the Pats stuck around.
As with many games over the past few years, though, it didn't pan out. A yard. A drive. A play. All but one of those go the other way, and it's a 2-0 start for the Pats. Instead, it's 0-2 for the first time since 2001.
Instead, it's the Miami Dolphins who claimed the 2-0 start to the 2023 season on Sunday Night Football in Foxboro this weekend. With two solid weeks from Tua Tagovailoa, Tyreek Hill, and a host of others, many believe their ceiling is sky-high. The Pats don't have the same luxury this year.
A few bright spots and question marks, per usual.
A special teams block for the ages
The highlight of the day was unquestionably this incredible blocked field goal. Brenden Schooler, the 26-year-old special teams Swiss Army knife, has been learning from Matthew Slater and a host of other specialists over the past two seasons. He made a few big plays last year, and all of a sudden in the 3rd quarter, broke out this incredible play to block Jason Sanders from a 49-yard field goal.
Cris Collinsworth had the line of the night: "You'll see every NFL team and every college team put that one in their playbook." A play that truly no one had ever seen before is taking the nation by storm today, and it's all because of Brenden Schooler's creativity and ability to execute a once-in-a-generation play.
DeMario Douglas' colossal fumble led to doubt from coaches
Just when we thought the Pats meant business after a solid start to the first quarter, DeMario Douglas - the kid they call 'Pop' - lost the football after being stripped by Bradley Chubb. Douglas has had a decent start to the year, hauling in 6 catches for almost 60 yards. He's athletic, fast, and has generally decent hands, making the Pats bullish on his ability to compete for reps at the NFL level. But despite Bill Belichick's comments to Rhode Island news last night, we never saw Douglas after that. Whether or not the benching was attributed to the fumble, it's fair to say most Pats fans and media were perplexed to not see him again.
What was the last play?
4th & 4, about 33 yards out of the end zone, and this is what the Pats draw up. I absolutely understand the appeal to throw an outlet pass to Mike Gesicki and try to power it through to move tup the chains. But the laterals, the discombobulation, and trying to create something from nothing reminded me eerily of getting pick-sixed by the Raiders last year.
While this was ruled a first down originally, hoping to give the Pats a fighting chance, it was taken back after review. Apparently, there was enough evidence to determine that Cole Strange, who was the recipient of the lateral pass, could be marked short of the chains. I won't claim to know more than the officials here, but it certainly did not seem that there was evidence to overturn the call - the explanation from NBC's referee in the booth, Terry McAulay, was suspect at best, and the angles were flawed. Regardless, while the Pats could've very well punched it in had the drive continued, it wasn't likely.
Although Mac's looking more confident, the stats don't reflect it
Make no mistake - Mac Jones looks better than he did in both 2021 and 2022. He is now comfortable taking long shots, he protects the football well, looks like more of an athlete, and is most certainly more comfortable in the pocket. While the 316-yard, 3-touchdown performance against Philadelphia was noteworthy, this week's stat sheet was average at best to the naked eye. No, you cannot discount a 31-42 performance with over 230 yards - but when the longest reception is only 14 yards, those stats start to take perspective. How long will it take for defenses to tighten up their coverage inside 15 when it's 100% of Mac's completions?
Only time will tell how will Mac respond in future weeks. Will he finally get a coveted long shot, and how will he continue to grow?