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Christopher L. Gasper

Patriots couldn’t come close to scoring against a weak Chargers defense, and are the most unwatchable team in the NFL

Ben Volin says Bailey Zappe is not the answer for the Patriots
WATCH: If you're a New England fan, you should keep rooting for the losses. The Globe's NFL writer explains why.

FOXBOROUGH — That painful stinging sensation in your eyes is a side effect of watching the Patriots brand of football, one that swaps TDs for tedium. The team that was once the NFL’s standard-bearer is now unbearable to watch.

Their brand is boring. The 2-10 Patriots are the most unwatchable team in the NFL. They’re losing games (five straight) and glazing over eyeballs in equal fashion. A pair of losses to AFC West teams sealed that dubious distinction.

The first loss was being stripped of a prime-time “Monday Night Football” game against the Chiefs Dec. 18. Thursday, the NFL flexed the point-deprivation Patriots out of that slot despite the presence of the face of the league, Patrick Mahomes, and the pop culture couple of the moment, Travis Kelce and Taylor Swift. The second loss came Sunday when the Patriots dropped a dull and pointless — in more ways than one — 6-0 decision to the Chargers.

The old-school Pat Patriot uniforms, dreary weather, offensive futility, and visible empty seats gave this game a true throwback feel. It was like taking a time warp back to the Dick MacPherson days.


Mothballing Mac Jones and going with Bailey Zappe was still the right decision by Bill Belichick. It didn’t bear any points because maneuvering around mediocre quarterbacks won’t cure an anemic offense.

Even in their red alternate uniforms, the Patriots were tough to watch in a 6-0 loss to the Chargers.Danielle Parhizkaran/Globe Staff

The Geneva Conventions should apply to watching the Patriots play offense. It’s torturous. The Patriots were shut out at home for the second time in a season — a first in franchise history. They’ve scored one touchdown in their past 14 quarters and compiled 13 points in their past three games, losing them all while surrendering 26 total points.

The last team to lose three straight games while allowing 10 or fewer points was the 1938 Chicago Cardinals, 85 years ago. The Patriots make every opposing defense look like the 1985 Chicago Bears, including the 32d-ranked Chargers.


“It’s a very simple game. You’ve got to score points. You’ve got to score points to have a chance to win,” said Patriots center David Andrews. “You can boil it down to whatever you want, but at the end of the day it comes down to points. We got to find ways to generate more points.”

The Patriots assumed the mantle of the lowest-scoring team in the NFL at 12.3 points per game. Even the End Zone Militia’s muskets must be jamming.

As chairman of the NFL’s Broadcast Committee, Patriots owner Robert Kraft has to know how bad his team’s product is for the league. CBS Sports chairman and certified Kraftie Sean McManus was in the owner’s box Sunday. It had to be painful for McManus knowing this drive-less drivel was on his air.

The wet weather hampered both offenses, neither took a snap in the red zone. But it benefited the Patriots, leveling the playing field.

Multiple huge drops by the Chargers receivers in Patriots territory stopped quarterback Justin Herbert from putting the game away nearly as much as New England’s noble defense.

“The worse the weather, the better for us,” said safety Jabrill Peppers.

“The worse the weather, the better for us,” said Jabrill Peppers regarding Sunday's rain.Danielle Parhizkaran/Globe Staff

And the worse for the football viewer.

The Patriots are offensive Ambien. They’re seasonal depression via point suppression.

Bill Belichick and Co. baited the Chargers into playing the Boring Game too.

Los Angeles entered with the seventh-most fourth-down conversion attempts in the NFL (11 for 20, 55 percent) behind analytically inclined coach Brandon Staley. But the Chargers declined to go for it on fourth down, punting on fourth and 2 from their 41 early and fourth and 3 from the Patriots’ 45 in the fourth quarter with 4:44 to go. Punting eight times to the Patriots’ seven paid off for the Bolts.


Staley knew there “weren’t going to be any style points.” Uh, there were barely any points, only a pair of Cameron Dicker 38-yard field goals in the second quarter.

You couldn’t blame the inept offense on Jones. He just watched it like the rest of us.

His replacement, Zappe, spiced up the proceedings with his legs, scrambling. He didn’t turn the ball over as he had in his past two appearances. He didn’t turn the ball over like Jones had been, resulting in passer PTSD.

However, Zappe, who was 5 of 12 for 39 yards at halftime and finished 13 of 25 for 141 yards, took five sacks, including four drive-killers.

Though Bailey Zappe didn't turn the ball over, he struggled to generate any consistent momentum on offense.Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

Twice in the second half, Zappe took back-to-back sacks when the Patriots were potentially in field goal range. The second sequence came on the Patriots’ penultimate possession starting on third and 3 at the LA 28.

“Yeah, that’s totally on me. Like you said, I’ve got to understand where we’re at on the field,” said Zappe. “I have to understand that we have points, and I have to understand plays — when it’s done. There’s nobody open. I’ve just got to throw the ball away. I just tried to do too much, and that’s on me.”


It didn’t help Zappe or the entertainment value of the game that the Patriots lost surging running back Rhamondre Stevenson in the first quarter to an ankle injury. Adding insult to injury, Stevenson fumbled at the LA 31, killing a scoring drive. Stevenson came in averaging 5.5 yards per carry in his past three games and piled up nine carries for 39 yards before getting injured.

As for Malik Cunningham, one of the few reasons Patriots fans have identified to watch this team, he didn’t play a snap after being elevated from the practice squad despite his team’s desiccated attack.

Belichick didn’t offer much in the way of an explanation: “We did what we thought was best.”

Belichick’s press conference behavior is becoming unbearable to watch too. In an infantile and boorish display, he truncated his postgame press conference, blowing off moderator and team vice president of communications Stacey James.


I’ve been on the wrong end of multiple Belichick walkoffs. It comes with the territory for media members, but to do his walkoff act to the people in the organization forced to promote his terrible product is unacceptable churlishness.

Note to owner Robert Kraft: the Patriots aren’t just losing games and losing eyeballs. They’re losing their dignity as well.

Now, the entire nation gets to see this soporific train wreck Thursday night as the Patriots play a prime-time game that wasn’t flexed on Amazon Prime against the Steelers. The only folks I feel worse for than the victims, err, viewers are the Patriots defensive players.


Can’t wait to glue my eyeballs open and tune in.

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Christopher L. Gasper is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at christopher.gasper@globe.com. Follow him @cgasper and on Instagram @cgaspersports.