The New England Patriots were coming into Week 3 looking to build off of their big win over the Jets last week. I don’t think there was much building at all. The Patriots were flat out dominated throughout the game. The New Orleans Saints opened the game up strong and never looked back.
A 28-13 defeat was the result, and honestly the score could have and probably should have been way worse. A few missed kicks from the Saints made the game closer, and even still New England couldn’t capitalize. It’s a loss that raises a lot of difficult questions for the Patriots moving forward. There’s a lot to unpack, so let’s get into it. Here are my quick-snap reactions to the Patriots’ embarrassing loss to New Orleans.
The Offensive Line is Now a Major Problem
Over the first couple weeks of the season, the offensive line play for New England had been pretty subpar. There was reason to worry, but hope that maybe it was just some early season rust. After this week, it’s no longer just something that can be “shaken off”. Something that was supposed to be a major strength for the team in 2021 is now one of it’s largest weaknesses.
The offensive line is doing this offense absolutely no favors. The running game could do absolutely nothing today. The rushing attack managed just 49 yards on 17 carries for a dismal 2.9 YPC. For a team that’s supposed to be a run heavy offense, this is very bad.
Rookie QB Mac Jones was under pressure all day, similar to how he was last week. He was only sacked twice, but he rarely had time in the pocket to let plays develop. He was getting hit quite a bit, eventually leading to some turnover problems.
The injury to OT Trent Brown has obviously played a huge role, and his eventual return could help things turn around a little. I just can’t see Trent Brown’s return being the fix all solution here.
Anyone have Dante Scarnecchia’s number?
Mac Jones Looked Like a Rookie Quarterback Today
For the first two weeks of the season, Mac Jones didn’t look like your typical rookie QB. He played the game like a certified pro, someone who has been in the league for more than just a couple starts. That was not the case against the Saints. Mac finally looked like a rookie, highlighted by his three interceptions.
Mac Jones first career interception 😬pic.twitter.com/wTuq0zgUki— Guy Boston Sports (@GuyBostonSports) September 26, 2021
Again, I feel bad putting all the blame on Mac, because it’s definitely not all on him. The offensive line really made it tough for him. Their inability to block forced the Patriots to go with a pass heavy approach. A rookie throwing over 50 times on this defense is not a great recipe for success. Especially when he’s throwing to THESE weapons. Add in some uninspired play calling by McDaniels, and you have a recipe for a letdown game.
Mac did have a couple of nice throws, and when they let him push the ball down field some more he was able to make a few nice looking throws. There’s no reason to be all that worried about Mac here. He’s a rookie, he’s not going to be flawless every week. Compared to all the other rookie QBs in this class, he still looks the best right now. Unfortunately, the offense is hanging him out to dry.
Money Well Spent?
The Patriots were the most active team in Free Agency this past offseason, spending what seemed like a gazillion dollars adding much needed talent to the roster. New England dished out a good deal of cash on offensive additions like Jonnu Smith, Hunter Henry, Nelson Agholor, and Kendrick Bourne.
Bourne actually played pretty well today, but it’s telling that three weeks into the season Jakobi Meyers is still the Patriots best receiver. The offseason additions on offense have so far made a very small impact, especially the two high priced tight ends. Jonnu Smith in particular was not good today, his poor play even lead to one of Mac Jones’ INTs.
Another pick for Mac Jones…— Guy Boston Sports (@GuyBostonSports) September 26, 2021
Off the hands of Jonnu Smithpic.twitter.com/2ZJsEs16mS
It’s early, very early, but if these guys don’t start playing better, they could begin to look like cap casualties for New England.
Defense Played It’s Worst Game
What’s telling about this is even in their worst game, the Patriots defense only gave up 252 yards of total offense. That’s honestly not terrible. Although the yards allowed don’t really paint the whole picture.
When it rains it pours, because the Patriots defense didn’t excel in really any area. The pass rush that impressed me the first couple weeks looked more like the 2020 Patriots today. They did still manage to record 3 sacks today, but there were many times where it just felt like Jameis Winston had all day.
The Saints should probably consider blocking Matthew Judonpic.twitter.com/7injiYrYC0— Guy Boston Sports (@GuyBostonSports) September 26, 2021
Give a QB enough time in the pocket and something will open up. The run defense was really bad, and is another negative trend I’m starting to see. It feels like the run defense has been a problem for a few years now. The Saints managed 142 yards on the ground. I’m not saying RB Alvin Kamara is easy to stop, but still. Even backup QB Taysom Hill was having success running the football.
Taysom Hill pulling a Masen Wake, or Masen Wake pulling a Taysom Hill? pic.twitter.com/CtQMuNvpaS— Cougs in the Pros 🤙🏼 (@BYUpros) September 26, 2021
Everything that could go wrong went wrong. There really wasn’t any bright spots at all coming out of this game.
The Little Things Continue to Beat New England
Throughout the Patriots dynasty, one of the things Belichick’s teams were always known for was there efficiency. New England teams always were smart and rarely turned over the football. The Patriots always ranked at the bottom of the league in penalties as well.
Through three weeks, these little things have been the Achilles heel to this team. Turnovers in particular have killed the Patriots. The two fumbles in Week 1 against Miami stripped New England of what should have been a win. The three interceptions today really gave the game away to New Orleans. The pick-6 to start the 2nd half all but ended the game.
This is an area I believe (and hope) can get cleaned up. I’m going to chalk this up to this being a team with a lot of new pieces and fresh faces. That being said, it’s still incredibly concerning to see the New England Patriots losing games because of turnovers. This doesn’t feel right at all.
Josh McDaniels Should Be On the Hot Seat
In my article last week, I wrote about how I was beginning to grow concerned about OC Josh McDaniels’ play calling. Another week of his bad play calling, and my concern is getting quite large. I just feel like he’s being extra cautious with Mac Jones throwing, but that caution is hurting the offense. The little dink-and-dunk stuff isn’t working.
Defenses are keying in on it, and McDaniels is simply not taking advantage of it. New Orleans had a gameplan that worked perfectly: take away the running game, force the rookie to beat us down the field.
Even when it was obvious the short stuff wasn’t working, McDaniels continued to throw these short passes that would go nowhere. It really wasn’t until RB James White got hurt and the game was getting out of reach that he finally tried pushing the ball downfield more.
When he did that, at least the offense was finally moving the ball a little. Lately it’s hard to belive that this is one of the orchestrates of one of the best offensive systems in the recent football history. The death by a thousand cuts offense during the Brady years was practically unstoppable.
Is Josh McDaniels actually on the hot seat? Probably not. In my opinion though, he should be. Maybe it’s time to get a new, more modern OC that can take this offense into the modern era of football.
Photo by Elsa/Getty Images