FOXBOROUGH — Instant Analysis from the Patriots’ 28-13 loss to the Saints:
▪ The offense can’t score points. The line can’t protect Mac Jones. The tight ends can’t catch. The defense can’t get a stop when it needs it. The special teams are having major breakdowns. And the coaches are doing a terrible job of getting the team ready to play.
Other than that …
The Patriots dropped to 1-2 in what was supposed to be a soft opening to their schedule. They look great on paper, but in practice are a disjointed mess. Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels have a long, long way to go with this team.
And just their luck, they have Tom Brady and the high-powered Buccaneers coming to Foxborough next week in the most highly anticipated game of the NFL season.
If you’re hoping for a competitive game next Sunday night, don’t hold your breath. This Patriots team doesn’t look like it could keep up with Boston College, let alone Brady and the Bucs.
▪ The Patriots spent a record $175 million fully guaranteed in free agency, but the offense still has no pop and the defense can’t do it all on its own. Winning the offseason rarely leads to winning on the field, and the Patriots are finding out why. It’s not easy to bring in 10-13 new starters and expect everything to click right away. Robert Kraft must be wondering why he spent all that money.
▪ Tight ends Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry got $56.25 million fully guaranteed, and neither player is earning his paycheck. Smith was brutal Sunday, finishing with one catch for 4 yards on six targets. He went 0 for his first 5, conservatively had three drops (and maybe had four), and literally handed a pick-6 to Malcolm Jenkins on the first play of the third quarter.
Henry wasn’t much better, finishing with just five catches for 36 yards and a false start on fourth and 1 when he forgot the snap count.
The offense was supposed to revolve around the two tight ends. Instead, they are holding the Patriots back.
▪ Josh McDaniels said during the week he has full trust and confidence in Mac Jones, but he had a funny way of showing it Sunday. When the Patriots finally reached the red zone for the first time late in the third quarter, getting to the 11 yard line, McDaniels called two run plays for Brandon Bolden, both of which were stuffed, then a swing pass to Smith, which only gained 4 yards. The Patriots then settled for a field goal to make it 21-6 after burning more than nine minutes off the clock.
What would have been the harm in letting Jones take a shot to the end zone on third down? Jones hadn’t even attempted a pass into the end zone at that point all season. The swing pass to Smith was a total give-up play.
▪ More of the same from Jones in his third NFL game — a lot of short passes and not much pop. He had a couple nice throws — a 31-yard catch-and-run to Kendrick Bourne, a 27-yarder to Jakobi Meyers, and a nice 22-yard fade pass to Bourne for a touchdown — and was efficient in the two-minute drill again.
But Jones averaged just 5.29 yards per attempt, threw his first three NFL interceptions (though two were not really his fault), and just couldn’t generate many big plays down the field. The Patriots finally pieced together a long drive in the third quarter, lasting over nine minutes, but it ended in that measly field goal.
Jones has just one touchdown pass in three games. Cam Newton could’ve done that. (Just saying.)
▪ The Patriots entered the game dead last in red-zone touchdown percentage, and went 0 for 1 . It’s not just failing to score points. They’re not even getting close to the end zone.
▪ Jones is going to be feeling sore Monday. The offensive line was a mess in the first half, and the Saints got a hand in Jones’s face on seemingly every pass play. They blitzed big on third down, and ultimately hit Jones 11 times, including two sacks.
Some of the pressure seems to be Jones’s fault, as he doesn’t always do a great job of sliding around and avoiding the rush, and sometimes seems to step right into it.
▪ The run game was non-existent as well, with Damien Harris finishing with just six carries for 14 yards, and it wasn’t just because the Patriots fell behind, 21-3. They clearly miss right tackle Trent Brown, and the rest of the line isn’t doing much better. The Patriots may want to consider moving Mike Onwenu back to right tackle, moving Isaiah Wynn to left guard, and putting Trent Brown at left tackle when he is ready to return from his calf injury.
▪ The defense tightened up after a shaky start, holding the Saints to 252 total yards. But just like in the loss to the Dolphins, it came out of the gates badly disorganized and allowed a touchdown on the second possession. The Patriots were also lucky that Saints kicker Aldrick Rosas missed two field goals. And after the Patriots slowly crawled back into the game in the fourth quarter, cutting the deficit to 8 points, the defense let Jameis Winston drive 75 yards on 13 plays for the game-clinching touchdown.
The defense was supposed to be the backbone of the Patriots. But it is certainly not doing enough to overcome a shaky offense.
▪ The Patriots suffered a devastating injury in the first half when James White suffered a hip injury, forcing him to leave via cart. The Patriots immediately ruled him out, and White is likely looking at a lengthy stint on injured reserve, if not for the whole season.
J.J. Taylor has some nice burst, but no one on the Patriots’ roster can replicate what White does as a third-down back — he’s always in the right spot, always reliable, and great in blitz pick-up. A rookie quarterback like Jones needs a wily veteran like White playing beside him. This is the one guy the Patriots couldn’t afford to lose.
▪ Just brutal coaching on special teams. The Patriots allowed their first blocked punt in six years when the Saints sent two rushers at the punt protector, Gunner Olszewski. Jake Bailey booted a kickoff out of bounds for the second straight week, and had two punts go into the end zone for touchbacks. Chase Winovich committed a holding penalty on a punt, and Deonte Harris had a 25-yard punt return for New Orleans.
When Bill Belichick is the coach, and the Patriots have more roster spots dedicated to special teams-only players than any other team in the league, they should not be getting embarrassed. It all comes back to coaching, and Belichick and special teams coordinator Cam Achord are dropping the ball.
More Patriots-Saints coverage
▪ Saints 28, Patriots 13: On Julian Edelman day, Patriots’ magic merely a historic footnote in humbling loss to Saints
▪ Chad Finn | Unconventional Review: Patriots loss to Saints was a rare debacle for Bill Belichick era, and other things we learned
▪ Patriots notebook: Wide receiver Kendrick Bourne has a career day in loss to Saints
▪ Ben Volin | On football: Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry, where are you? Patriots aren’t getting good return on free agent investments