You always hope for better if you’re a fan. Sure, no one likes to see their team get flogged. But that’s precisely what the Dallas Cowboys did to New England’s Patriots Sunday in Arlington, TX.
It was ugly. Embarrassing, even…from a Patriot perspective. But the season is only four weeks and four games old. It’s far from over, even if the moment appears to be bleak.
In fact, based on many preseason prognostications, this Patriots’ team is right on schedule.
Four tough opponents to open the year? Likely three losses, at least. And that is precisely where New England sits through four weeks.
Why the angst? Clearly, it’s this last loss to a talented but also-maligned Dallas team that is causing the Monday meltdown.
- Mac Jones certainly may have had his worst overall performance as a pro.
- The offense managed a mere three points in continuing an alarming trend of under-performance in the season’s first month, even with a new coach (Bill O’Brien) creating and calling the shots.
- The team continues an alarming trend of self-inflicted mistakes, putting them in disadvantageous positions.
And the defense? The backbone of whatever this Patriots team might become this season…may have lost its’ TWO best players (Matthew Judon and Christian Gonzalez) for an undetermined amount of time due to injury.
But stop with the ‘whoa is us’ lament. This team is exactly what many thought it would be. It is challenged by better teams, it is competitive (to an extent) against some and overmatched when making mistakes.
Hope and promise always dominate feelings and emotions in the early stages of a season. Good, strong performances tend to be overrated, so it stands to reason poor performances should not be. One-and-three was a very likely outcome for September, as far back as last spring when a tough season schedule was first released.
What has changed, really?
Nothing, other than any feelings of optimism once held before Sunday’s Dallas disaster. Has Mac Jones regressed? He had a bad game. The offensive line can still be ‘offensive’ at times. The defense may need some unlikely heroes to step into the breach, picking up the slack from those who may miss some time.
But the season isn’t over. 13 weeks remain, and this is no pom-pom waving point of view. The Patriots began last year 1-3 and missed the playoffs by a game. They were 1-3 in 2021 and reached the postseason. Sure, you always hope for better. You also hope to NOT start 1-3.
But there is a long road ahead. There will still be bumps along the way. Next week is the next step to take…for many of the players. Same goes for the coaches, too.
Onto New Orleans. Just watch that next step – it could be a doozy, either way.
It isn’t hyperbole to say Mac Jones was awful Sunday. He was, and everyone saw that. 12-for-21 passing for 150 yards, two interceptions, one pick-six. And there was almost another one of those, too.
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He hasn’t had a set, even a healthy offensive line in front of him yet. He’s on his third different play-caller in three years as a pro. He had a bad day that causes many to question whether he has enough talent to be an NFL quarterback, much less remain the Patriots’ starter.
Was he rattled? Yes. But did he become ‘bad’ instantaneously? C’mon, be real. Jones is struggling, and he absolutely needs to show he is capable of playing well, capable of leading and capable of beating good teams.
“He sees things well, but obviously, as a team, we can’t win turning the ball over three times in a game, two for touchdowns,” Bill Belichick said Monday. “We’ve got to do a better job of that. That’s everybody’s responsibility. The quarterback’s part of it, so is everybody else.”
Better coaching could really help him out here. Then, his execution must improve. The ‘tush push’ that failed on 4th down was a bad call, and had poor execution.
His next shot is Sunday against the Saints. A fair question, however: How many more will he get after this one?
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The ‘whoa’ line
The offensive line still isn’t healthy. It’s still undermanned at a couple of key positions, which is certainly the fault of talent evaluators and planning department.
But Mike Onwenu? Much more has been expected of his performance thus far, even after coming back from off-season ankle surgery. Three huge penalties in the first half Sunday, two for illegal procedure and one for holding put his team in a real hole. When you know you need everyone to do their jobs – a cliche, yes – and you can’t hold up your end of the bargain?
Time to let someone else have a shot. This is a results-oriented business. But who?
Nitpick one. Anyone.
- Injuries to Judon and Gonzalez.
- Poor play calling and execution.
- Ineffective running game against a defense that allowed 222 yards the week prior.
- Penalties. Turnovers. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
- 26-29 won-loss record in the post-TB12 era.
- Largest first-half deficit, turned into worst-ever loss in Bill Belichick’s New England tenure.
- The Patriots allowed the NFL’s first successful fake extra point since the league moved the play to the 15-yard line.
Got more? Probably. But at some point, it becomes like beating your head against a wall…nothing changes, and it still hurts. Change – any change – is mostly on the guys who play, who need to remember one thing.
They can be changed out, eventually. And so can the coaches.