“If you are trying to get out of the hole, stop digging.”
It seemed as though the 9-4 New England Patriots were in prime territory to build on a 7-game winning streak just two weeks ago against the Indianapolis Colts. But instead, it was trials and tribulations in Indy; tough penalties and defensive struggles made it significantly harder for the Pats to gain a notable ege, and they suffered by way of a 10-point loss.
Then, it was on to Buffalo.
This week was a key one for the Pats: after a 14-10 win over the Bills just a few weeks ago, surely it could be smooth sailing…right?
Well, the Bills stepped up in their 33-21 win at Gillette Stadium, bringing the Pats losing skid to two straight. Isaiah McKenzie had a career day with 11 catches, defensive back Micah Hyde picked off Mac Jones twice, and Josh Allen once again cracked the 300-yard mark by way of the air.
It’s safe to say this Patriots team dug themselves into quite a hole after a 7-game win streak came to an end against the Colts. Now, it’s two frustrating games in a row for the Patriots. Let’s break down what went wrong & the outlook for the final two games of the regular season.
Christian Barmore gives chase to Josh Allen. PIC: Dave Silverman
The offense couldn’t find a rhythm. You cannot necessarily blame a loss on the same offense that scored 21 points, but there was many-a-blunder in this one. Too many dropped passes highlighted a dismal first half; tight end Jonnu Smith - who has been less-than-average so far this year - along with others, seemed to have slippery fingers. N’Keal Harry turned in an awful performance yet again. Hunter Henry was targeted six times, only to reel in one reception. The one bright side? A 5-for-6 fourth-down conversion marker; if they hadn’t reached that point, it might not have overshadowed a dismal 1-for-10 effort on third-down.
Mac Jones has growing pains, and they couldn't come at a worse time. It’s no secret that the effort Mac Jones is turning in this year is a good one; he’s in line to be the clear-cut AFC Rookie of the Year. But as does every rookie, the effort comes with growing pains. However, they are hitting at a time where they need Jones to be a consistent, solid threat. Jones completed only 14 of his 32 attempts against the Bills, throwing 2 picks, 0 touchdowns, and 145 yards. Many say the weather, the new offensive system, or the high-performance culture in New England is a factor - he says none of them matter. The good news? He knows his situation. "There's no excuses, and there's really nothing to talk about,” he said after the game. “I didn't play great. I can play better and I can lead a lot better. It starts with me."
Mac Jones has time to correct the course for the final two weeks of the season & beyond. PIC: David Silverman
Tough doing for the defense, too. It’s safe to say your team should be in the game with a 21-point effort. That was mostly the case for the entire game, but the Pats defense surrendered 33 points…a very uncharacteristic performance for a defense that has been statistically above average for most of the year. In large part, it was due to the 300+ yard performance that Josh Allen turned in; it seemed that everything was going his way the whole game. The Bills did not punt ONCE: they became the first team with 0 punts in a game against Bill Belichick’s teams in football history. That spans 474 games, including the playoffs. Truly a stunning statistic.
Why did they pick up this flag? I will not complain about the officiating unless it is putrid. Sure, the lines are blurred this season on who the “good” referees are, but you cannot convince me this was a good call. Matt Milano was allegedly “holding up” Mac Jones. They threw the flag, conversed, then picked it up. You cannot tell me this was not a late hit. Period. But I’ll let you be the judge.
The tiebreaker is gone. Buffalo holds the tiebreaker over New England, and they can put it on cruise control for the rest of the year with games against the Atlanta Falcons and the New York Jets, who combine for a 11-19 record this year. New England’s hopes at a first-round bye appear to be diminished.
UP NEXT: It’s no secret it’s time to fix some things, and what better way to iron out the team than a home game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Apologies in advance to our good friend Eric Dunn, but there is not a team in the NFL in worse shape than the Jags. The tumultuous times in the locker room may have left with Urban Meyer’s firing, but it’s not enough to move the depleted Jags in the right direction. As long as the Pats show up with a full roster and ready to go, Trevor Lawrence should have a very tough time. Take the spread at whatever egregious double-digit Vegas gives you.