FOXBOROUGH — The punchless Patriots’ offense hit a historic low in Sunday’s 34-0 loss to the Saints.
Punctuating the worst home loss of Bill Belichick’s era was that the Patriots have gone 10 consecutive quarters without a touchdown. (The last one came in the second quarter of the Week 3 win over the Jets.) Last week against Dallas, they were held to just a field goal in a 38-3 blowout. Sunday, they were held off the scoreboard.
“We don’t want to score zero points,” said quarterback Mac Jones, who was lifted for Bailey Zappe for the second straight week. “It’s not the goal.”
“Plain and simple, we’ve got to find a way to play and coach better than that,” Belichick said. “So that’s what we are going to do; start all over and get back on a better track than we’re on right now.”
The last time the Patriots suffered through a similarly anemic stretch was late in 2020, when they went three games (Weeks 14 through 16) scoring just one touchdown in losses to the Rams (24-3), Dolphins (22-12), and Bills (38-9) with Cam Newton at the controls (he scored the TD, against the Bills).
Sunday also represented the first time the Patriots have managed a total of 3 points combined in back-to-back games during the Belichick era. It represented a 31-year low for the franchise — they were shut out in back-to-back games in Weeks 13 (a 34-0 loss to Atlanta) and 14 (a 6-0 loss to Indianapolis) in 1992.
For a team that has scored just 6 first-quarter points all season and has no third-quarter touchdowns, there was a palpable sense of frustration in the locker room.
“I think we’re all frustrated,” said running back Zeke Elliott. “Just going out there and putting a goose egg on the board, it’s not a good feeling. I think everyone in this locker room is at the same point at this point. We just have to figure this thing out. We have to get back to work. We have to rely just on our hard work and execution and try and come out and fix this thing.”
“We try every day,” said wide receiver Kendrick Bourne. “Sometimes, hard work is just hard work, but we’ve got to come and want it in the game. There are guys who want it, but we have to learn how to play when adversity comes. I think we’re struggling with adversity. Going down 21 points, it gets discouraging. So we just have to keep fighting through that.”
One of the reasons can be traced to turnovers. Jones threw a pair of interceptions — one a first-half pick-6 by New Orleans safety Tyrann Mathieu — and lost a fumble. Those were turned into 17 points by the Saints.
“Definitely don’t want to start like that,” said Jones, who was 12-for-22 passing for 110 yards. “We’ve got to start faster in these games. It’s been a trend here.”
“Not taking care of the football. Turning it over three times,” said Elliott when asked to diagnose the issues on Sunday. “It’s just tough to win football games with three turnovers.”
J.C. Jackson: ‘It feels like home’
The return of J.C. Jackson and Jonathan Jones provided a bit of good news for a team desperate for defensive depth.
Jackson, who was acquired from the Chargers last week, starred for New England from 2018-21 before leaving for Los Angeles in free agency. The 27-year-old saw his first action midway through the first quarter, and was part of a rotation at cornerback with Myles Bryant and Jones, as well as Shaun Wade.
“It feels like home, man. It feels like home. Familiar faces. It just feels like home,” said Jackson, who finished with one tackle. “I feel appreciated here. And I’m excited to be back.
“It was an easy transition. I’ve been here before and kind of knew what’s going on. I played a little bit today, and I feel good.”
Jackson, who had 25 interceptions in four seasons with the Patriots, said even though he’s only been back a few days, the reacclimation process has gone as well as he could have expected.
“It’s easy,” he said. “It’s second nature. I’m getting out there doing what I love to do, and this is my defense. This is the defense that I started with and it made me who I am. Coming back here is just going back into doing what I do best. I’m back. I’m back.”
Jackson wouldn’t comment on a report he refused to re-enter a game earlier this season with the Chargers, one of the reasons Los Angeles was looking to deal him.
“I don’t want to speak on the Chargers. I’m moving on,” he said. “I’m with New England now. I don’t want to go back and talk about that.”
Injuries continue to pile up
For a team that endured the loss of two defensive stars last week in outside linebacker Matthew Judon and cornerback Christian Gonzalez, it was another bad afternoon for injuries, as the Patriots lost several players.
Linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley (shoulder) and safety Jabrill Peppers (illness) sustained second-half injuries and left for a spell.
Wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster made a second-half catch over the middle, then left the field slowly. He went to the blue tent, and was officially declared out with a head injury.
In addition, wide receiver Demario Douglas also left in the first half with what the team was calling a head injury. After being classified as questionable to return, he was eventually downgraded to out.
Offensive lineman Mike Onwenu, who underwent offseason ankle surgery, was initially questionable to return before he was downgraded to out in the second half.
Cole Strange among inactives
The Patriots had three offensive linemen inactive: Cole Strange (knee), as well as tackles Calvin Anderson and Tyrone Wheatley Jr. Anderson and Wheatley were healthy scratches, as was wide receiver Kayshon Boutte. Outside linebacker Matthew Judon (elbow) and emergency quarterback Will Grier rounded out the group … Sunday marked the first time the Patriots were shut out since Oct. 2, 2016, a 16-0 loss to Rex Ryan and the Bills. It was the final game of Tom Brady’s Deflategate-related suspension … The Patriots extended their streak to 24 straight games with a sack with Bentley’s 9-yard sack in the first quarter. It was his first of the season. … Looking for some good news? Patriots punter Bryce Baringer is leading the league with 16 punts inside the 20-yard line. He is on pace to finish the year with 54 punts inside the 20-yard line, which would set an NFL record.
Read more Patriots coverage:
- Tara Sullivan: Mac Jones is not the only problem, but he’s not the answer at quarterback for the inept Patriots
- Patriots fell into a huge, early hole again and after a brutal beatdown at home, can they recover?
- Instant Analysis: The Patriots didn’t just lose to the Saints. Bill Belichick gave up.
- Patriots shut out in an ugly loss to Saints that drops them to 1-4