Week Two of the 2023 NFL regular season requires a bit of perspective for the New England Patriots. After all, it has been a while since this team has struggled out of the gate to start a year.
Like 2001 was the last time to start a season 0-and-2. And what hurts most – a real stinger – is both of this years’ losses have been at home.
But as is usually the case with untenable situations, applying a bit of perspective salve on the 0-2 open wound could help dull the pain:
- Tough schedule to start the season against postseason contenders.
- Injuries and unavailability on the offensive front.
- Younger players in key positions.
“I think, obviously, it sucks,” QB Mac Jones said postgame. “But, really, when you’re close, you just have to do more, I think. Weight room, film, practice. Like, everyone just has to do more. And hopefully, if you do that, I mean, you know you did everything you could do, right?”
Right. Reach back for a little more. But only if you can keep from fumbling it, throwing it away or committing a costly penalty.
See, what ails these Patriots is still largely self-inflicted. The slow starts and early turnovers in the first two weeks are as much of a reason as any for the teams’ ‘oh-fer’ start. And if the players keep making the same mistakes over again, it says one of two things:
- Your players aren’t disciplined.
- Your coaches aren’t capable of coaching the players to be disciplined.
Which is it? Probably a little of both at this stage.
“Look, it’s just part of it. It’s part of this business,” center David Andrews explained. “There’s injuries, there’s different types of injuries. Guys here a week, gone a week, things like that. It’s just part of it. You’ve got to take advantage of your reps in practice; whatever you get, take advantage of every opportunity.”
Except no one is doing that, save for maybe Mac Jones…and perhaps a few of the defensive players. Jones isn’t, and shouldn’t be, the scapegoat for 0-and 2. Has he been perfect? No. Jones needs help – especially in front of him – which has thus far been sporadic, at best.
“We need to be a lot more disciplined,” said TE Hunter Henry. “We’ve lost two weeks in a row, two close games. We fought back and had a chance there. We’re putting ourselves in positions too early in games by turning the ball over both on their side of the field.”
“We’ve got to get it right,” Matt Judon said. “I think when you come out, and you make a big play or something, something happens – turnover, whatever. Everybody’s waiting on somebody. You can’t wait.”
No, you can’t wait. Now’s the time…for all to be accountable and eliminate controllable mistakes. Just like Week One against Philadelphia. Hey, numbers won’t lie – roughly 10% of teams to start a year 0-2 reach the postseason.
Seems crazy to even say the word “postseason.” But that was the hope, if not the expectation for this Patriots’ team, even if the reality is something different.
Holding the line?
More like…holding on the line. Actually, penalties weren’t the real issue Sunday night.
Blocking the guys wearing the different colored jerseys in the trenches was the problem. Early in the game, the Miami defensive front overwhelmed flotsam and jetsam up front for New England, stopping a promising opening drive that reached Dolphins’ territory.
On the other side of the ball, while the Patriots’ defensive plan certainly included slowing down receivers Tyreek Hill and/or Jaylen Waddle…they couldn’t forget about RB Raheem Mostert. And just after rookie corner Christian Gonzalez claimed his first career NFL interception…giving his team real momentum…the offensive line couldn’t keep Jones clean. A punt, then Mostert and Miami’s line dominated that side, too.
For a 43-yard, near-back breaking TD run. The Dolphins were tougher in the trenches. Period.
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Pop’s doghouse residence
You knew it was coming. Bill Belichick has treated younger players for years with a general lack of compassion for their mistakes. Call it teaching a tough lesson, putting their noses to the wall in a corner, going to bed without their supper.
DeMario Douglas caught a 29-yard plass from Mac Jones at the end of the first quarter and tried to do more with the ball…only to have it stripped from behind. The ensuing fumble stopped another promising, early New England drive and led to Douglas finding pine time for much of the game.
Did the punishment fit the crime? Perhaps. Applaud the effort at instituting discipline, sure, and making players accountable.
But when you have an offense sorely lacking big-play capabilities, and Douglas clearly has those…is it really what’s in the best interest of the team to swat the player on the nose and put him in the corner?
So you’re saying…
…there’s a chance? They’re close? The last time the Patriots began with an 0-2 start to a year, Mac Jones was only three years old. But it was a season in which Drew Bledsoe was at quarterback for that start, took a wicked hit from the Jets’ Mo Lewis…and the rest, as they say, is history.
Welcome to the legend of Tom Brady. But one thing Brady (and Bledsoe, too) learned to do is bring the team from behind to win games, something that has eluded Jones thus far in his career. Jones isn’t the reason New England lost in Week Two. But it is fair to wonder if he has that somethin’ somethin’ that can help turn good players into great players.
He’s close. But getting close…only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.