Joe Buck and Troy Aikman killed the Patriots' offense all night Monday


For the second straight week, the Patriots were mocked on primetime.

Though the Patriots bested the lowly Cardinals 27-13 on “Monday Night Football,” they delivered an uneven offensive performance at best. For most of the night, the Patriots dealt with the same issues that have plagued them all season: penalties, bad execution and bizarre play calls.

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Once again, the Patriots mismanaged their final drive of the first half, causing Joe Buck and Troy Aikman to highlight their ineptitude. After Mac Jones completed a 30-yard strike to Hunter Henry that moved the Patriots down to Arizona’s 10-yard line with 10 seconds left, they attempted a … run up the middle.

The uninspired play call drew an uninspired effort. Jones and rookie running back Kevin Harris fumbled the hand-off, pushing the Patriots back five yards. Instead of going for the end zone, the Patriots were content with a long field goal.

Aikman was perplexed.

“That one is hard to explain. You understand it a little bit when it’s a read option, but this one is a hand-off the entire way,” he said. “To not be able to simply execute a hand-off? I mean, Harris doesn’t act he even expected to get the ball.”

Buck summed up the exchange as an “odd play” and “odd play call.” (Last week, Al Michaels said the Patriots fumbling around with their timeouts at the end of the second quarter was “not New England-like.)

But with Matt Patricia in charge, baffling decisions and errant execution are now staples of New England’s sad offensive attack. On the Patriots’ first drive of the night, they were faced with a 3rd-and-9, and then had to back up five yards after Trent Brown got whistled for a false start.

Suddenly, it was 3rd-and-14. They never had a chance.

“They’ve had a penalties on the offensive side of the ball. They’ve gotten into these 3rd-and-long situations. They were facing one already prior to that penalty,” said Aikman. “Now it just got a whole lot longer. But third down has not been good for the New England Patriots.”

Entering Monday, the Patriots were 6-for-22 on third down over their last two games, and went 3-for-11 against the Cardinals. During the first half, they didn’t even try to be aggressive.

Late in the second quarter, Aikman panned the Patriots’ game plan.

“We haven’t seen the ball get down the field. For all of the discussion about the quick game, ‘let’s get them off of us,’ we haven’t even seen anything attempted down the field,” he said.

As it turns out, Aikman’s pre-halftime soliloquy was an amuse-bouche to his searing commentary in the third quarter. Jones started off the half with a 15-yard completion to Kendrick Bourne; so naturally, Patricia called a futile hand-off to Harris, who lost two yards. Then the Patriots called timeout, because Patricia couldn’t get the play in.

Jones, much like last Thursday night, reacted with an expletive.

After commercial break, Buck and Aikman didn't hold back.

“The frustration is bubbling up again for Mac Jones. It’s hard to blame him, to be honest,” said Buck.

Then Aikman went in for the kill.

“You talked about the frustration we’re seeing from Mac Jones, and I understand it,” he said. “I certainly get it. You’ve gotta believe the plays are coming in — they’ve had a delay of game — as quickly as you would like. Being an offensive coordinator is a tough job. In fact, I’ve always felt it’s the hardest job on any staff. It’s more than just calling plays. Part of it is getting a group of players to buy in, and you can tell the confidence is waning, especially with this young quarterback.”

The Cardinals, who lost Kyler Murray early in the game with a knee injury, imploded over the final two quarters. The Patriots scored on a fumble return for a touchdown, and miraculously put it into the end zone on their next drive (after a Jones interception was nullified).

Arizona’s sad performance prompted Aikman to question whether he was still watching pro football.

“I think this is still professional football… but this is amazing,” he said.

Indeed it was.

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