The New England Patriots simply looked tired on Wild Card weekend. The team became a combination of new players who never played this many snaps before mixed with old players that played too much in their career. Unfortunately, this Patriots team peaked in December and could not find the life to recover as they ended the season on a 47-14 loss to the Bills.
Earlier in the week, ball security and the need for urgency were two areas that would determine the Patriots playoff fate. New England remained scoreless after the first quarter, committing two turnovers to open each half. In their wins, the Patriots looked like true AFC contenders, playing a style of football that no other team would want to face. In their losses, however, the team looked slow, undisciplined, and outmatched. It may be one of the worst losses in the Bill Belichick era, here’s why.
What Went Wrong For New England Patriots?
Seven Possessions, Seven Touchdowns.
In the past two games versus the Bills, Buffalo has punted zero times. Those are the only two games that has ever happened to Bill Belichick. 19 straight possessions of zero punts, nine straight touchdowns, in eight-plus quarters of football.
In those two games: zero turnovers forced, zero sacks, four plays for no gain, one play for a loss of yard, 910 yards allowed. Josh Allen accumulated 622 yards passing, 130 yards rushing, eight touchdowns.
The Patriots could not make a single tackle on initial contact. Each play rolled over into extra yards, Josh Allen had plenty of time to roll out and extend plays, third and short became automatic for Buffalo.
The Bills averaged 8.9 yards per play, nearly a first down each play. While thin at corner, the front seven was the bigger problem. The pass rush, generated no pressure, especially from Matt Judon, linebackers were getting beat to the outside, and no one could finish a single tackle.
The Patriots would have needed Mac Jones and the offense to have their greatest performance just to be in the game.
It’s been the same message for the past month, this Patriots team is not built to play from behind. The slow starts killed the Patriots down the stretch and it only continued on Saturday night. 14-0 with a turnover after the first 15 minutes, losing football.
Hard to fault Mac Jones on his two interceptions. He placed the ball right in the bucket to Nelson Agholor for six until Micah Hyde made a tremendous play snatching it out of the air. It still is a turnover nonetheless and it changed the game greatly. New England was driving, making two big third-down conversions. Tying it up on an explosive offensive drive would have kept this game afloat. Although who knows if the Patriots offense could have kept pace.
What Went Right? Well, Nothing
10 wins and a playoff spot would be looked at as a success for most. However, the way New England finished the 2021-2022 season makes it feel less than that. The team sat on top of the AFC at 9-4 heading into the bye week only to drop three of their last four games, getting dismantled on Wild-Card weekend.
Maybe the Patriots simply need to rest. Mac Jones went from winning a national championship to immediately launching himself into draft prep, quarterback competitions, and playing in 21 NFL games.
The offense made great strides this year with major improvements from last season. The passing may be just a piece or two away from being elite. However, the defense, needs much more long-term retooling, specifically in the front seven. More on that to come as we now enter the offseason.
AP photo by Adrian Kraus