Welcome to the Unconventional Review, an instant reaction to standouts, stats, and story lines from the Patriots’ most recent game . . .
Never thought it would come to this. Never thought it could. Never thought the Patriots would become an unfunny punchline as long as Bill Belichick was their coach.
It’s stunning that it has come to this. But the unfathomable has become the reality. The Patriots stink. They’re 1-4 after Sunday’s humiliating 34-0 loss to the New Orleans Saints, which follows last Sunday’s humiliating 38-3 loss to the Dallas Cowboys, which follows their only win and perhaps their only win for a while, a 15-10 defeat of the New York Jets in which they had to survive a Zach Wilson Hail Mary attempt to eke out the victory.
They are off to their worst start since 2000, Belichick’s first season, when he had to clean up a mess of a roster. Now the mess of a roster is his creation, and there’s no fix in sight. Mac Jones, their third-year quarterback who once had some promise, has turned into a Tony Eason lowlight reel. The line is a sieve, the receivers can’t get open, and the rare inspired play call is executed poorly.
The Patriots were shut out at home for the first time since September 1969, eight years before Tom Brady was born. It never happened during Rod Rust’s 1-15 season in 1990, when the Patriots were outscored by 265 points. It never happened during Dick McPherson’s 2-14 season in 1992, when some kid named Scott Zolak led them to back-to-back wins after an 0-9 start.
The Patriots have 11 turnovers in their last nine quarters. They have not scored a touchdown in the third quarter all season. Their last offensive touchdown came when Pharaoh Brown caught the Jets napping and went 58 yards on a catch-and-run in the first minute of the second quarter of their Week 3 matchup. They have given up 69 unanswered points.
There are no fixes in sight. Jones (12 for 22, 110 yards, 2 interceptions, 1 fumble) is shattered, bruised, and mopey. Bailey Zappe, who went unclaimed on waivers at the end of training camp, looks like the best option right now, if only because he’s better at running for his life. Rhamondre Stevenson (8 carries, 24 yards) has turned into 2008 Laurence Maroney for no explicable reason, considering that he was a tackle-breaking machine behind a mediocre line last year.
What else? The Patriots are usually behind before the television broadcasts finish showing the starting lineups. They constantly look unprepared. They begin their games with no spark and end them alone with their thoughts on the hopeless sideline. Belichick probably will survive the season. Should he? How can he, if Sundays keep going like this? How did it come to this?
The Patriots do not have a soft spot on their schedule. They are the soft spot for everyone else. The Saints hadn’t scored 20 points in any of their previous 10 games until dropping 34 on the Patriots. On the plus side, the Patriots don’t have to tank to get a couple of tickets for the Caleb Williams sweepstakes. They can just keep doing what they’re doing.
Three players who were worth watching
Players suggested in the Unconventional Preview: Chris Olave, Keion White, Cameron Jordan.
Tyrann Mathieu: The interception artist known as the Honey Badger entered Sunday’s game with three previous pick-6s in his career. (Actually thought it would be more.) He got No. 4 in the first quarter, and I doubt he’s had one that was easier. On third and 6, the pocket collapsed around Jones. He stepped up, got hit by Carl Granderson (who was a force), and a delicate mallard wobbled out of his grip and right to Mathieu, who ran it in from 27 yards for the game’s first touchdown. That was the sixth career pick-6 for Jones. That’s two more than Aaron Rodgers has thrown in his career, and he was drafted in 2005.
Alvin Kamara: The back looked sharp for a veteran playing just his second game after serving a three-game suspension. He ran 22 times for 80 yards and a touchdown, and caught all three of his targets for 17 yards. The TD was the 73d of his career, breaking a tie with Marques Colston for most in Saints history.
Kendrick Bourne: Well, if we’re obligated to include a Patriot, Bourne was decent. He had back-to-back catches for 15 and 11 yards on an ultimately ill-fated drive at the end of the first half, and pulled off a 28-yard catch-and-run in the second half. Both Jones and Zappe overshot him on plays that had a chance to be big gainers. Bourne would be a helpful trade pickup for a contender.
Grievance of the game
Colleague Ben Volin wrote at greater length about this, so I’ll quickly second the notion. Belichick’s decision to punt on fourth and 3 from the Saints’ 40 down, 24-0, early in the third quarter was a permission slip to check out. No, the Patriots weren’t coming back. Since when does that mean you stop trying?
Three notes scribbled in the margins
Predicted score: Saints 17, Patriots 13
Final score: Saints 34, Patriots 0
I’m probably in a tiny minority with this, but I still get why Belichick moved on from Jakobi Meyers and brought in JuJu Smith-Schuster. Their production was relatively comparable, and Smith-Schuster was supposed to be better after the catch, which is something the Patriots needed. But whether it’s because of fit, injury, or just the usual terrible player evaluation, Smith-Schuster has been a disaster. Smith-Schuster had three catches for 6 yards before departing after taking a shot to the head in the third quarter. He now has 14 catches for 86 yards on the season. He had more receiving yards than that in five different games last year for the Chiefs. Mohamed Sanu had a better run here than this guy . . . You know what constitutes a heads-up play for the Patriots these days? Jabrill Peppers having the presence of mind to bat the ball out of bounds after fumbling a punt return . . . For a brief stretch in the second quarter, the cable and streaming feed for the game went black. Was I the only one who was fine with that as long as it was back for the Celtics preseason game at 6 p.m.?
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
- Patriots offense hits historic lows in Sunday’s loss to the Saints