Patriots' Seasonal Outlook turns grim after loss to the Ravens
In what was ironically the Patriots' best offensive showing of the year as a whole, not only did they lose at home by double digits, but their playoff hopes are just about gone. Mac Jones could now be set for a stint on injured reserve after suffering a severe ankle injury in garbage time. The early word from Tom Pelisarro, among others, is that he suffered a high ankle sprain and is undergoing an MRI to determine the severity of said injury.
Additionally, the fear the Patriots have, via NFL Network's Mike Giardi is that Jones suffered ligament or tendon damage. Now with that out of the way, there was a real football game played at Gillette Stadium for the first time this year. There were some positives, but also a lot of negatives. Here's how things shook out, as the Patriots fall to 1-2 in the young season.
Although New England lost this one by 11 points, they were given chance after chance after chance to win on Sunday and didn't capitalize, and that is unacceptable. The first lowlight was an absolutely baffling 4th & short play call by offensive coordinator Matt Patricia. He opted to dial up a pick play for Kendrick Bourne right at the LOS and he was promptly stuffed. This was after the Patriots called a timeout to talk things over before going for it.
Turnovers were another infuriating factor in this loss, four of them in total did the Patriots no favors. Jones threw three picks, including one on the play where he got hurt. Another came on a pass attempt to Devante Parker where he appeared to overrun his route. Then again on a 3rd and goal play where Jones chucked it up with the blitz bearing down on him. All three of those interceptions came in the second half as well, as did Nelson Agholor's second fumble of the season after a 30-yard gain. Not to mention Myles Bryant nearly coughing up a punt for the second week in a row.
Great First Half
What further makes this all worse is that the Patriots had an excellent first half given the circumstances and opponent. The Patriots' defense did a great job against an explosive Ravens offense not just in the opening frame, but the whole game. Specifically, Deatrich Wise and Jonathan Jones, who may have been their two best players in this one. Yes, Lamar Jackson and the Ravens went to the well with Mark Andrews with regularity in the first half, but he's probably the second-best tight end in football behind George Kittle. He is bound to make some plays here and there. Holding that group to 14 in the opening half was yet another feather in this group's cap.
Even the Patriots' offense was great outside of the brutal turnover on downs in the second quarter. Devante Parker picked up 71 of his 156 yards in the opening 30 minutes, and both backs found solid gains with regularity, really for the entire game. Even Jones was making plays with his legs, scoring a rushing touchdown. With all that said, going into halftime down one point to then losing by 11 in that fashion was very disappointing. The Ravens were more than willing to lose this one.
It took a few weeks, but we finally saw our first big game out of Rhamondre Stevenson this season. Averaging 6.1 yards a carry, he ran for 73 yards and a score, on top of hauling in four catches for 28 yards as well. This is now back-to-back games where he has gone over 5.0 yards a carry and 45 total rushing yards. Especially with Jones going on the shelf at least for a week, Stevenson will likely need to put up similar numbers to keep the Patriots in games. Also, although it didn't count, his lateral to Jones for a two-point conversion would have been the play of his week had it stood.
Not quite Stephon Gilmore or Darrelle Revis, but Jonathan Jones has done a commendable job serving as the Patriots' top outside corner through three games. This week he caused not one, but both of the Patriots' turnovers. His forced fumble on the big-bodied Rashod Bateman was especially impressive, especially considering that setup a would have been go-ahead scoring drive, which was of course squandered. Not to the fault of Jones, and a large bulk of the secondary as well, who held up well without Kyle Dugger.
The Bourne Conundrum
Getting right to the point, the Patriots should trade Kendrick Bourne if they have no intention to use him. On a day where Jakobi Meyers was inactive with a knee issue, he was on the field for 17 snaps, SEVENTEEN. The three other top receivers, DeVante Parker, Nelson Agholor, and Lil'Jordan Humphrey all at least were on the field for 48 snaps. What are we doing here? During last year's seven-game win streak (excluding @Buffalo) he was averaging four grabs a game on the dot for 56.8 a game along with three touchdowns. New England is a better team when he is out there and contributing and I'm sorry, 43 snaps through three games with only nine total targets is malpractice.
So what changed? Simple, Matt Patricia. For all of Josh McDaniels' faults, and there are plenty, he at least was able to make Bourne one of the focal points of last year's offense. This ultimately could be a group call from the brain trust in Foxborough, but Patricia is the offensive coordinator in all but name, this falls on him. All because Bourne allegedly missed a pre-game meeting during the preseason, Patricia is willing to jeopardize this offense to assert himself. That attitude of course did him wonders in Detroit. If the Patriots don't want to integrate Bourne into their game plan anymore, I'm sure there are at least a dozen teams who would be thrilled to bring him on board.
Gaffney's Three Stars:
1st Star - Jonathan Jones (1 INT, 1 FF)
2nd Star - Deatrich Wise (3 First Half Sacks)
3rd Star - DeVante Parker (5 Rec, 156 Yards)
Honorary 4th Star - Vince Wilfork (2022 Patriots' Hall of Fame Induction)