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Nicole Yang | State of the Patriots

Bill Belichick, more terse than usual, sounds as if he’s heard enough after Patriots’ loss to Chargers

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FOXBOROUGH — One hour after the Patriots lost their 10th game of the season, this time at the hands of the Chargers, coach Bill Belichick finally took the podium Sunday afternoon inside the auditorium at Gillette Stadium.

Not only was the wait longer than usual, but the generally curt Belichick was even more brusque. He opened with his typically trite remarks, that the team missed its scoring opportunities and that the offense struggled to play complementary football in a 6-0 defeat, before proceeding to rebuff the majority of questions about the state of his team.

“We just have to do a better job of what we’ve talked about all year, making plays in critical situations,” Belichick said. “That’s really about it.”


The Patriots made a change at quarterback, swapping 2022 fourth-round draft pick Bailey Zappe in for 2021 first-round pick Mac Jones. The results, however, largely remained the same. The passing attack couldn’t reliably move the ball.

Not only did the Patriots score zero points, they didn’t enter the red zone once. The offense reached the Chargers’ 31-yard line in the first quarter and their 30-yard line in the fourth quarter, but did not any closer. The lack of production has become the norm for the Patriots, who have now finished four games this season without scoring a touchdown.

How does one explain what’s continuously gone wrong for the offense?

“I just tried to do that,” Belichick said, referencing his generic opening statement. “Sorry if that wasn’t good enough.”

Belichick said the Patriots need to play better in critical situations.Danielle Parhizkaran/Globe Staff

Headed into kickoff, the Patriots ranked 31st in the NFL in points per game (13.5) — and they certainly didn’t boost that stat with their performance. They also ranked at the bottom of the league in touchdowns (1.5), red zone scoring attempts (2.2), yards (293.5), and first downs (17.3) per game. So, how surprised is Belichick at the lack of production from the offense?


“I don’t know,” he said.

What does he identify as some of the missteps that have led to this sad state?

“I just answered that question,” he said. “This isn’t the season review. We’re talking about the game, the game that is just over. I’m happy to talk about the game. I made my comments on it. I’m not going to get into a full season review, if that’s what you’re asking.”

Does Belichick feel as though the organization has let down Jones, given his downward trajectory in the three years since getting drafted?

“I’m just trying to put the best team we can out there every week,” he said.

Mac Jones was on the bench to start the game for the first time this season.Danielle Parhizkaran/Globe Staff

Just four months ago, the Patriots had high hopes for Jones and the offense to bounce back with the hiring of offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien. Can Belichick fathom how far the unit has fallen through 12 games this season?

“I just told you what I thought about the game,” he said. “We moved the ball. We didn’t make enough plays to score. Got into scoring range and weren’t able to convert those into points.”

The way Belichick talks about Sunday’s game, the Patriots were just a few plays away from victory. Sure, that assessment isn’t entirely off base because New England’s defense held the Chargers to just 6 points. But Belichick continues to ignore the fact the Patriots are deeply flawed on offense, that they are not equipped to compete.


The first half was particularly ugly, as the Patriots went three and out on four of six drives. Zappe started to establish more of a rhythm in the third quarter, connecting with wide receiver DeVante Parker for gains of 21 and 27 yards. He also threw an accurate deep ball to Tyquan Thornton in stride, only for the ball to fall through the receiver’s hands — à la the throw Jones made to Parker in Week 6 against Las Vegas.

Zappe managed to take care of the football, not turning the ball over, but his biggest undoing was he took five sacks — all in the second half and all in critical situations. The plays, both a function of poor pass protection and Zappe’s propensity to hold onto the ball too long, often ended New England’s drives.

Bailey Zappe took five sacks in Sunday's loss to the Chargers.Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff

So, is Zappe going to start on Thursday against Pittsburgh?

“We just finished the game,” Belichick said.

What exactly did Zappe show to earn the start on Sunday?

“He’s worked hard all year,” Belichick said.

The Patriots still have two more quarterback options on the practice squad — Will Grier and Malik Cunningham — if they decide they don’t want to play either Zappe or Jones. Although Cunningham proved to be an electric dual-threat option in college, it’s hard to imagine any quarterback having success in New England’s system as currently constructed.

Was there any thought of turning to Cunningham as a spark on Sunday?

“We did what we thought was best,” Belichick said.


Making matters worse for the offense is the ankle injury to running back Rhamondre Stevenson, who was ruled out after getting brought down on a hip-drop tackle in the first quarter. Stevenson could not put any weight on his right leg while he had to be helped off the field.

The Patriots won’t have much time to make significant changes, operating on a short week before traveling to Pittsburgh. And without a change in results, questions about the pitiful state of the offense will only continue to mount. As will questions about the future of the team.

But Belichick likely won’t budge on either.

Does he want to continue coaching the Patriots?

“I’m looking forward to this week and getting ready for the Steelers,” Belichick said.

After about five minutes of questions after Sunday’s game, Belichick asked, “Anything else?”

When a Patriots media relations staffer said there was one more question, Belichick proceeded to walk away from the podium.

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Nicole Yang can be reached at nicole.yang@globe.com.Follow her @nicolecyang.