Some New England Patriots fans might be quick to assess the blame on the players, but others saw it a bit differently.
In a game that was largely within reach for Bill Belichick’s side until late in the fourth quarter, we can’t help but put the coaching staff in the crosshairs for the 28-13 loss to the New Orleans Saints.
Though Jonnu Smith’s horrid day didn’t help whatsoever, there were so many other aspects of the game that went wrong and ultimately defined the disappointing afternoon.
First and foremost … what happened on special teams?
The Saints blocked a punt and the Patriots had a kickoff go out of bounds. A disciplined special teams is the hallmark of this franchise over the last two-plus decades.
And Belichick continuously talked about how Sean Payton was going to come into this one prepared like no other head coach. When you have a chance to pin your opponent inside their 10 and have the momentum after a touchdown, these mistakes are unacceptable.
Bill Belichick was 100% out-coached by Sean Payton during Patriots-Saints.
Now, for the elephant in the room: what in the world was going on with the offense? Was Josh McDaniels asleep?
The Saints were bringing pressure early and often. The Patriots didn’t adapt quickly enough to get the ball out of Mac Jones’ hands faster. Also, this run-first offense ended up … abandoning the run? Seventeen carries on the day, with six coming from Jones? Absolutely not.
And how about stop passing to the tight ends if it’s not working? Smith had three crucial drops, one of which killed a drive into Saints territory and another that directly led to a Malcolm Jenkins pick-six. Jakobi Meyers has been the premier offensive weapon all along. He needs to be in the game plan even more. And Kendrick Bourne finally got some looks when it was too late, but his 96 yards receiving and a touchdown led the team. Too often Jones was running for his life or watching the pocket eat him alive — he was hit 11 times and sacked twice.
And talk about those downfield shots! Wrong game to give into the media’s narrative of Jones “checking down” too much. The Saints cover the deep ball very well and have a top pass rush in the NFL without blitzing. That was known coming into the game, yet Jones was taking five-step drops or watching everything crumble right before his eyes.
If there was any game to “manage” him, it was this one — not against the Dolphins or Jets.
Belichick claims the Patriots were stuck having to pass the ball for most of this game. How was that the case? This was a 7-0 game for most of the first half. And it didn’t really get out of hand until it was 21-3 with 14:50 left in the third quarter. There were still two full quarters to establish some sort of rhythm. And even if you were “forced” to throw, the passing plays weren’t catered to the circumstances.
And finally! The defense. The Saints went 6-for-13 on third downs. And all of those conversions required seven yards or more! How?! The one thing the Patriots defense couldn’t do in this one was give up a long scoring drive after scoring a touchdown with just over nine minutes left in the fourth. What did they do?
They let the Saints eat nearly seven minutes off the clock on a 13-play touchdown-scoring drive. No chance of coming back from down two touchdowns with 2:37 remaining.
The Patriots didn’t overly impress us with their play on the field, but this one felt like the coaching staff didn’t execute the right plan or put their guys in the best position to succeed. It happens, and we’re not going to draw exaggerated conclusions from it, but it needs to be addressed when it results in a loss.