Patriots Week 16 Notebook: The New Era Fails a Big Test


The Buffalo Bills have caught up with the New England Patriots, marching into their home, starving for a win. It has been a long three weeks for the Patriots; the number one seed in the AFC looks like a distant memory as New England hopes to clinch a wild-card spot in a relentless playoff hunt.

The division runs through Buffalo again as the Bills now control their own fate. After checking all the boxes of being a top-five NFL team, the Patriots have failed their past two tests. The rookies look overwhelmed, the free agent signings have disappeared, only to be replaced by costly mistakes. Nothing much has gone right for New England as of late, but if the New Era wishes to be successful, they must survive harsh humblings like Sunday.

What Went Wrong For New England Patriots

The Defense

The Patriots did not stop Josh Allen once. Not once. 428 yards of zero punts, zero sacks, zero turnovers, and red-zone trips on every possession excluding the end of the half. New England’s defense was flat out awful. In fact, New England only recorded one tackle for a loss, a loss of one yard. Other than two rushes for no gain, 72 of the Bills 75 plays resulted in positive yards or an incompletion to stop the bleeding. Christian Barmore jumped on a fourth-and-7, Matthew Judon stayed far away from Josh Allen, as did the rest of New England’s pass rush.

Myles Bryant

No Cole Beasley, no problem. Not a problem at all for the Bills. The Patriots certainly missed Jonathan Jones this week as Isaiah McKenzie torched Myles Bryant. McKenzie hauled in 11 catches for 125 yards and a touchdown.

Mac Jones and the Passing Game

Kendrick Bourne and Hunter Henry caught their first passes in the fourth quarter. The Patriots will lose nine times out of 10 if this occurs. Bourne remains the Patriots’ best player after the catch and Henry is Mac Jone’s most reliable target.

Although Nelson Agholor has not lived up to the number one wideout price, the Patriots needed him this week. Agholor’s absence was felt more strongly than expected. Without him, the Patriots do not have a player who can stretch the field vertically. Agholor’s deep threat allows players like Jakobi Meyers and Kendrick Bourne to bleed open into the cracks of opposing secondaries. Without those little cuts mixed in with the running game, Hunter Henry’s production fizzles in result.

What Went Right?

Hardly Anything

Most weeks, the Patriots have created silver linings, even in their losses. This week, New England found themselves in a one-possession game in the fourth quarter. Damien Harris literally carried the offense to stay in the game, two of the last three Patriots possessions ended in touchdowns. But the Patriots lost another game due to a flat start against a top team. The Patriots’ last three games can be seen as “playoff atmospheres.” New England is 1-2 in those games with two embarrassing losses.

Thankfully, the Patriots still are still placed in a strong position to make the playoffs. However, there is nothing to feel comfortable about. The Patriots best hope lies within the lessons learned over the past two weeks while securing a ticket to the postseason.

The Patriots are built similarly to teams like the Titans, Colts, and Ravens: they are designed to succeed with a lead. When a team’s rushing attack outperforms their passing game, it is difficult to play from behind, especially in the playoffs. What often separates serious contenders from the playoff hopefuls are the teams that can rely on their Quarterback. If the Patriots wish to be one of those teams one day, they will have to create consistency and poise from their passing attack.

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