It wasn't just bad, it was downright ugly for Pats
That’s the Patriots’ record after the nightmare scenario that just went down at Arlington, Texas’ AT&T Stadium on Sunday. The Patriots lost to the Cowboys 38-3 and now, at worst, will be tied for last in the AFC East as they approach the quarter-mark of the 2023 season.
The loss was not only the franchises worst loss of the post-Tom Brady era, it was the worst of the Bill Belichick-era. He had never lost by 35 points until Sunday.
Here are five immediate thoughts from New England's outlook-shifting defeat in Dallas:
5 - The Patriots cornerback ‘house of cards’ has fallen.
The Patriots have a very good cornerback room on their roster.
Prior to the season, however, our own Andy Hart here at WEEI.com deemed them a “house of cards” that could easily collapse.
Though it hasn’t been performance-based, Hart’s proclamation has come true just four weeks into the season.
Defensive backs Jack Jones and Marcus Jones are both currently on the injured reserve with hamstring and shoulder injuries respectively, Jonathan Jones hasn’t played since Week 1 with an ankle injury, and rookie phenom Christian Gonzalez left Sunday’s game with a shoulder injury.
During the first quarter, September’s NFL Rookie of the Month made a tackle on Cowboys running back Tony Pollard and landed awkwardly on his shoulder. He was looked at by team trainers iin the blue medical tent, went into the locker room, and did not return to the game.
It remains to be determined the extent of the injury, but it leaves them with just Myles Bryant, Shaun Wade, and Ameer Speed as their healthy cornerbacks as they leave Dallas.
4 - Demario Douglas = good at football.
Maybe the one positive from Sunday’s game was this sick play from Demario Douglas:
The rookie sixth-round pick out of Liberty, while he’s still not being used properly in this Patriots offense by coordinator Bill O’Brien, has made several highlight-worthy plays to start his young career, and it looks as though New England may have finally hit on a wide receiver in the NFL Draft.
It’s almost likely they couldn’t afford to bench him after a Week 2 fumble versus the Dolphins…
3 - Mac Jones might not be made for the comeback.
The book on Patriots’ signal caller Mac Jones through his first several years in Foxborough has been that, when surrounded by the right weapons and situation, he can be a solid quarterback. While that still may be the case, Sunday’s game in Dallas showed that he’s not made to help an offense climb out of a hole.
After going down 10-3 following a CeeDee Lamb touchdown, Jones came out on the next drive and failed to protect the football, resulting in a lost fumble that Cowboys linebacker Leighton Vander Esch returned for a score.
After the Patriots punted on the insuing next drive and then allowed a Dallas field goal, Jones came out on the next series and made arguably his worst mistake in a New England uniform. On a second-and-10 attempt with the offense driving, the QB bought time, rolled right, and then threw across his body to Kendrick Bourne with DaRon Bland reading him like a book. The cornerback intercepted the pass and returned it 54 yards for a touchdown.
After a a second interception to Bland and another three and out to open the second half, Jones was benched for quarterback Bailey Zeppe with just over six minutes left to play in Sunday’s third quarter. He finished Sunday’s contest with 12 competitions on 21 attempts, just 150 yards passing, two interceptions, a fumble, a sack, and a QB rating of 39.9.
Jones been serviceable in the handful of Patriots game he’s been in command of when playing from ahead. But will he ever have the fortitude to stand in there and fight from behind? We’ve yet to see it.
In all likelihood, he’ll return under center for the Patriots in Week 5 against the Saints, but would they consider making a long-term switch at some point during this season? We’ll get to that.
2 - New England will never consistently win if they first don’t stop beating themselves.
The Patriots have dug themselves into hole, after hole, after hole over nine of their last 10 games (h/t Tom E Curran, NBCSBoston):
Dallas 38-3 (final).
They only won two of the above contests.
The reasons for many of these holes and eventual losses have been simple mental mistakes. Penalties that both stop and continue momentum-changing drives, and fumbles and interceptions that hand the ball to the other team are now baked into just about every single Patriots game.
These detriments were never something Belichick-led teams of old would have to worry about. They were coached out of the organization.
Now? They're what define it.
1 - Now what?
So, the Patriots have had a miserable start to the season, but where do you turn?
You could fire head coach Bill Belichick four games into the campaign and make a guy like Jerod Mayo, Bill O'Brien, or Joe Judge (?!) your interim head coach from here on out. However, that doesn’t really change your outlook on the season and it wouldn't be fair to them to give them the rest of this campaign.
They could also make a change at quarterback and hand the reins over to backup Bailey Zappe but, he looked looked far worse than Jones did this preseason when given the opportunity. So bad, in fact, that he was waived during final roster cuts.
At this point, there isn't really a clear answer or direction. Belichick's Patriots will just have to fight with whatever fight they have left and try to make something out of this disappointing, to say the absolute least, start to their 2023 season.