For the first time since mid-October, the Patriots lost a game.
New England fell to Indianapolis, 27-17 Saturday night in Indy. The Patriots got off to a very poor start, trailing 17-0 at the half and 20-0 early in the third quarter before making a game of it in the final 15 minutes.
Mac Jones and the rest of the team fighting until the very end was nice to see, but there were also numerous things to learn from and things to get right over the final three games of the regular season.
The team is now 9-5 on the year, no longer in first place in the AFC, but still among the top teams in the conference and a chance to make a postseason run.
Here some a few leftover thoughts from the game.
— The first half was as bad of a half both the Patriots and Jones have played this season. The rookie was 8-for-11 with 75 yards and an interception. As a team, it did not score a single point in the first half of a game for the first time since October of 2016 against the Bills (The Jacoby Brissett Game). Jones then threw an interception on the first drive of the second half. It was a game that happens to every rookie quarterback where they seem overwhelmed and confused at times, but give credit to Jones for fighting back.
Many wanted to see how Jones would handle adversity within a given game, against a decent team (not the Texans), and the rookie did about all he could besides pulling out a comeback win. From this perspective, this was a positive for Jones where it showed he is capable from coming from behind. The rookie showed something Saturday night.
— The Patriots finished with just 81 yards on the ground, including only 36 yards on 10 carries from Rhamondre Stevenson. A lot of that had to do with the score and trailing by double-digits early on. The same goes for Michael Onwenu only playing six offensive snaps as an extra blocker. New England did not play the game on its terms and it’s clear it is a much better team when doing so. How important is the Patriots run game to their success? In wins they average 145.9 yards on the ground, while in losses they average just 74.8.
— Penalties were a major problem. The Patriots finished with eight for 50 yards compared to the Colts totaling just two for 13 yards. Even more costly were four of the eight came in the red zone, including three false starts. Penalties are a major reason why the Patriots have the 26th-ranked offense in the red zone this season (touchdowns on 54% of their trips). The eight penalties tied a season-high, which also happened in Weeks 1 and 4 — both Patriots losses.
— The run defense is becoming an issue and an area opposing teams will look to take advantage of. New England allowed 226 yards on the ground, the second time it has allowed more than 200 yards rushing in three weeks. Going into action Sunday, the Patriots are allowing 4.6 yards per carry, which was 26th in the NFL. It can get away with it when teams don’t have very good rushing attacks/offensive lines, but when facing good ones, it’s usually a major problem.
— New England had a punt get blocked and returned for a touchdown in the first quarter. It was the first time that’s happened since 2015, but even more alarming was it was the third punt the Patriots have had blocked this season. To put that in perspective, only nine teams in NFL history have allowed more than three in a single season. Bill Belichick seems to really like special teams coordinator Cam Achord, which is a good thing because three blocked punts in a single season could cost someone a job on other teams.
— Some of the defensive snap counts stood out. First off, 2019 second-round pick Joejuan Williams was inactive in favor of rookie Shaun Wade. Then in terms of defensive ends/edge rushers, Deatrich Wise played just four snaps and Chase Winovich didn’t get a single defensive snap at all. Part of this was because of the Colts only completing five passes, but zero defensive snaps is puzzling for Winovich and shows he really is only viewed as a pass rusher.
— Overall, our thoughts surrounding the team did not really change after the game. The Patriots are still a solid football team that has the ability to win a playoff game or two, but they just aren’t the best team in the conference like some believed during their seven-game win streak.
Thanks to MacFarlane Energy, your Mitsubishi Diamond Elite contractor, where they can very affordably heat your three-season room with a Mitsubishi ductless hyper heat unit. Please visit MacFarlaneEnergy.com.