The best thing I can say about the New England Patriots' performance last night was that it only last 60 minutes of game time. Horrible game planning and calling, failing to capitalize on the pass rush, turning into a Big 12 defense on third down and getting nothing on offense save for two drives. Save for the 2020 loss to the San Fransisco 49ers, I can’t recall a regular season Patriots home game that went this bad. Give credit to the Chicago Bears, who came to play and executed, but this was a bad loss on all fronts. And oh by the way, you now have a quarterback controversy, and not in a good way.
Shooting Yourself in the Foot
First things first, The Bears going 11-18 on third down is inexcusable. With regularity, Justin Fields was able to escape the pocket and either move the sticks with his legs or with some good, sometimes great, throws on the run. Some of the throws, one to Cole Kmet on Devin McCourty specifically I can live with, but 11 conversions? That cannot happen or else you won't be winning a whole lot. Outside of Matt Judon and the three Joneses, there was just about nothing to like about this defense. Also on the subject, the Myles Bryant drawing top receivers every now and then experiment has to stop. Teams are continuously picking on him and it isn’t by accident. Additionally, going down 10-0 right off the bat was a telltale sign of how things were going to go.
Any goodwill that offensive coordinator Matt Patricia had built up over the last three weeks is completely gone. His pulse on the offense throughout the game was as bad and probably worse than even the absolute worst during the Josh McDaniels Era. Patricia also calling the most conservative of conservative drives to kick off the game specifically irked me. He gave Mac Jones zero shot on those first two drives, nor did left tackle Trent Brown who had three brutal penalties. Over the course of the entire second half, the Patriots put up 67 total yards of offense. Sixty-Seven. I don’t think that he’d get yanked from play-calling duties mid-season, but if Patrica continues to call mediocre games in Mac Jones starts, there is no scenario where he should be back in 2023.
Finally, there were six total fumbles in this game, all of which were recovered by the Bears. Chicago was more than willing to lose this game, and the Patriots left them off the hook time after time. Frustrating doesn’t even hit the tip of the iceberg. Even Jake Bailey had an awful night in the punt game.
Judon for DPOY?
Maybe the only bright spot for the Patriots unsurprisingly Matt Judon, who now has sole possession of the NFL Sacks lead at 8.5. The Bears' tackles had next to no answer for him in the opening half but did a solid enough job to keep the pressures at bay in the second half. Even if that meant Judon was getting a few batted balls here and there. Don’t look now, but I think Judon has a real claim to Defensive Player of the Year. Guys like Aaron Donald, Micah Parsons, and others all may have a leg up, but Red Sleeves has looked borderline unstoppable this year at certain points. Long way to go, but a 20-plus sack season isn’t out of the question.
Yes, there is now a QB controversy in New England but in the worst possible fashion. Mainly because Bill Belichick didn’t relay the full plan to anyone on the team that wasn’t named Mac Jones. After an admittedly horrendous backfoot throw on the run resulting in a pick, Jones was pulled after just three drives. Bailey Zappe then put up 14 points due to a pair of great deep shots to get a score, then set up one. Afterward, the Patriots put up zero points and had three turnovers. Now you have a locker room that appears to be confused about whats happening at signal caller and upset at the fans for immediately turning on Jones.
For what it’s worth, I thought Jones getting yanked was justified for the interception, which was a horrible throw as you can see, but having sixty thousand people turn on you in a blink of an eye must be soul-crushing. Belichick said postgame that Jones would have gone back in had the Bears not run away with things, but I don’t know if that would have helped any. Now you have two quarterbacks who have certainly taken confidence blows in the blink of an eye. My guess is Jones is going to be back full-time next week, but Belichick is playing with fire, keeping secrets from his locker room. Having yourself, Mac, and ESPN being the only parties aware of going on is certainly a choice. Not a good one, but a choice nonetheless.
Up Next: J-E-T-S
For the first time in about seven years, a Patriots-Jets game is actually going to have stakes, as Gang Green sits at 4-3 through seven games. Although they lost rookie sensation running back Breece Hall for the year with a torn ACL, they swung a deal for James Robinson about an hour before kickoff on Monday. Tackle/Guard Alijah Vera Tucker also suffered a season-ending injury as well over the weekend.
With that said, the Jets have some emerging stars, such as top-five overall pick Ahmad ‘Sauce’ Gardner out of the University of Cincinnati. Sooner rather than later, people are going to consider him one of the five best corners in football, and so far, he’s having an awesome year. Was a huge fan of his in his final year in college. Rookie Wide Receiver Garrett Wilson on the other side of the ball is another guy who should be a household name for years to come. He was an absolute menace at Ohio State. I wouldn’t say I’m a fan of quarterback Zach Wilson, but he’s doing enough to keep the Jets afloat at this juncture as well. This won’t be your typical Patriots-Jets game in the Meadowlands with that in mind.
Final Score: Chicago Bears 33, New England Patriots 14
Gaffney's Three Stars:
1st Star – Matt Judon (2.5 Sacks, 5 Pressures)
2nd Star – No One
3rd Star – Else