Instant analysis from the Patriots’ 34-0 loss to the Saints:
▪ The Patriots still have 12 games to play. But let the record show that Bill Belichick gave up on his team with 9:55 remaining in the third quarter of Sunday’s game.
It’s one thing to build a boring, deficient football team that gets blown off the field each Sunday. But Belichick made an unconscionable decision against the Saints to wave the white flag early in the third quarter — sending in the punt team on fourth and 3 from the Saints’ 40-yard line while trailing, 24-0.
This was beyond being conservative, as Belichick usually is on fourth down. This was Belichick throwing in the towel. This was Belichick telling the world he doesn’t believe in his players, and doesn’t feel like trying anymore, even with 24 minutes remaining.
It’s the type of decision that should make Robert Kraft think long and hard about the direction of his franchise.
Belichick said he never thought about going for it on that fourth down, which is absurd.
“Until we’re better on third and fourth down, I don’t think so,” he said.
The talk about Belichick being on the hot seat should continue. The Patriots are 1-4 and just suffered the worst home loss in Belichick’s 24 years. They are tracking to miss the playoffs for the third time in four years.
The idea of getting rid of Belichick midseason seemed almost inconceivable before Sunday. But Belichick’s punt decision was so absurd it almost seems as if he’s daring Kraft to make a move.
It’s one thing to build a faulty football team, as Belichick has this year. It’s another for the franchise to go backward, as it has since Tom Brady left — their three worst home losses have all come since 2020.
But it’s a football sin to give up on a game as Belichick did.
▪ It’s safe to say the Patriots have never been less competitive in Belichick’s 24 years, being outscored, 72-3, the past two games. They also started 1-4 in 2000, Belichick’s first year, but at least they were mostly one-score losses. The sarcastic cheers in the second quarter when the Patriots converted a first down were warranted.
Belichick’s Patriots are in complete disarray. The quarterback can’t stop throwing the ball to the other team, and his confidence is shot. The offensive line can’t block. The receivers can’t make plays. The defense, missing its two best players, had no juice. The Saints set their season high in points (21) with 10 minutes to go in the second quarter. The Patriots are setting records for futility that they haven’t done since the days of the Boston Patriots in the AFL. Ex-Patriots are ripping the team on social media.
“If they were playing madden they’d be forced off the sticks… 21-0 rule!” Jason McCourty wrote on X (formerly known as Twitter).
This is what the end looked like for legendary coaches Tom Landry, Chuck Noll and Don Shula. Now it seems it’s Belichick’s turn.
▪ Belichick’s fourth-down decisions are baffling. He was aggressive in Week 1, going for it four times against the Eagles and passing up a couple of field goal attempts. But he has gone back to his ultra-conservative ways in recent weeks.
Last week in Dallas, Belichick opted for a chip-shot field goal on fourth and 1 from the 6-yard line in the first quarter. Sunday against the Saints, Belichick sent out the field goal unit on fourth and 3 from the 30 instead of going for it, and rookie kicker Chad Ryland hooked the 48-yard kick to the left.
The Patriots needed to show some urgency to get back in the win column and get the offense back on track. Instead, Belichick is showing his players he has no faith in them.
▪ This may have been the last start for Mac Jones for a while. He threw for just 110 yards with two interceptions, plays with no fire, and seems to have lost all confidence. His pick-6 wasn’t all his fault — Jones was hit by Carl Granderson as he threw — but Jones probably should have taken the sack instead of trying to make a play. Jones is now responsible for four defensive touchdowns in five games, an unthinkable stat.
Jones’s coaches and teammates don’t seem to trust him. He’s not seeing the field, he’s not making plays, and now he’s throwing simple pitches away. There really is no reason not to give Bailey Zappe a chance Sunday at Las Vegas.
▪ The Patriots have the worst offensive line in the NFL right now because of injuries and a game of musical chairs. Trent Brown couldn’t handle Granderson’s twist and gave up the hit on Jones’s pick-6. David Andrews and Riley Reiff, playing guard for the first time in his career, allowed a blitzer to scream free right up the middle and hit Jones. Right tackle Vederian Lowe allowed Cam Jordan to blow right past him for a sack late in the second quarter. And the run game averaged just 2.5 yards per carry, with Rhamondre Stevenson getting stuffed on fourth and 1 in the fourth quarter.
It’s another area of the team Belichick has allowed to fall into dilapidation.
▪ The Patriots’ defense didn’t get much help from three turnovers by the offense, and did hold the Saints to 304 yards. But the defense is understandably softer without their best pass rusher (Matthew Judon) and cornerback (Christian Gonzalez).
Most disconcerting for the defense — the Saints moved the ball at the 8-yard line in the second quarter, and ran the ball three straight times to get into the end zone. The Patriots couldn’t or wouldn’t put up a fight.
▪ And just to put a bow on everything, the Patriots’ special teams were an abomination again. Bryce Baringer hit a 26-yard punt. Joe Cardona’s snaps were low. Ty Montgomery’s kickoff returns came out to the 21- and 17-yard lines.
And Chad Ryland missed a makeable field goal, making him 4 for 8 this year. Meanwhile, Nick Folk is 13 for 13 in Tennessee. The Patriots traded up in the fourth round to select Ryland, and only got a 2025 seventh-round pick for Folk. Another one in the “L” column for Belichick.
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?
- Patriots offense hits historic lows in Sunday’s loss to the Saints
- Patriots shut out in an ugly loss to Saints that drops them to 1-4
Ben Volin can be reached at email@example.com.