Sunday, October 31, 2021

Pats Outlast Chargers, Top Them 27-24

The Patriots made great in-game adjustments and outlasted the L.A. Chargers for a 27-24 win. The result moves them to 4-4 on the season, 1.5 games back of the Bills in the AFC East and just outside the playoffs in the AFC (#8 team, top 7 make the post-season). Next week is another road trip, this time to Carolina to take on the Panthers -- losers of four of their last five games.

This game was all about adjustments. L.A. scored touchdowns on two of their first three drives. But in the next eight Chargers possessions, the Patriots score more points (7, on a pick-six) than L.A. did (3). It was a combination of causing offensive confusion, missed opportunities and untimely penalties, and two interceptions by former Charger Adrian Phillips.

Phillips' pick-six was the difference in the game, giving the Patriots a touchdown lead that they made hold up. The secondary in general had tight coverage or no coverage. But it was enough to slow down the Chargers.

The Patriots offensive line played very well, except for two unfortunate holding calls that brought back big runs. The backs ran for decent yardage and were rarely stopped for short yardage -- and they also held onto the ball with both hands all the time; Ramondre Stevenson never giving up the ball until the official asked for it. (If only Kendrick Bourne had been as careful.)

QB Mac Jones completed passes to eight different receivers, was poised and efficient, and didn't turn the ball over. In fact, for the first time in a while he didn't really put the ball in harm's way. His completion percentage was lower than usual (51.4%) and the yards were down (218), but he looks like what the Patriots usually expect from a quarterback -- protect the football, hit the open receiver, and don't make the big mistake.

Defensively the plan was to get pressure with the front four, which mostly worked. There were a few blitzes, but the Pats seemed hesitant to give up big passing plays. In fact, two of the Chargers three longest plays were runs that broke loose, not pass plays.

Special teams went in the Patriots favor, though not as much of a blowout as last year's game. Nick Folk has been clutch all season, Jake Bailey is consistent, and the coverage and return teams were superior to L.A. all day long.

But in my opinion, this game was about the coaching. The Patriots offense struggled early and got better as the game proceeded. The defense struggled early but basically shut the Chargers down for the last 40 minutes. That comes down to adjustments and in-game coaching.

The real question going forward is if the Pats should add someone before this Tuesday's trade deadline. Two weeks ago I wrote that if New England lost either of their next two games they should be sellers at the deadline. But they won them both. So should they add someone to make a run at the playoffs?

My answer is "yes," but with one proviso. Go ahead and add a player or two if you think they can help you this year *and* next season. But not if the player won't help next year. At 4-4 they are on the edge of being in the playoffs. But even if they make the playoffs they are unlikely to win it all this year.

No rookie quarterback has ever won a Super Bowl. And even if the Pats make a run and get to the post-season, they are likely to be a low seed, so it would mean three road wins to get to the big game.

So if they identify an offensive lineman, linebacker, or cornerback who can help this year -- and who is under contract and can help the team in 2022, too -- then go ahead and pull the trigger. (This also goes for players who you are confident you can re-sign in the off-season, if they aren't already under contract for 2022.)

But don't mortgage the future to "go for it all" this year. They've never really done that in the past, anyway, so I don't expect they would do it now. But at 4-4, with a improved O-line and running attack, some momentum on their side, and a good win in Los Angeles, why not make a run and bring in players who can help you now and in the future?

Where does that leave us? The next five games aren't easy. They can win at Carolina and they have a Thursday tilt in Atlanta that should go their way. The other three are home games against two home dates against the Browns and Titans (division leader) and a road game at the Bills (division leader).

They can't go any worse than 3-2 if they want to stay in the playoff hunt. And 4-1 would put them in control of whether they made the post-season, but that's a lot to ask against that level of competition.

But at least we are talking about it and the season isn't a washout at this point :)

Biggest ongoing problem: In relation to any playoff run, the past is the future. The biggest concern will be those close losses to the Cowboys, Buccaneers, and the terrible 1-7 Dolphins. Win any of those games and you're 5-3 and competing for the division.

Non-QB MVP: Phillips, who's first INT was a great athletic play, and who's pick-six was the difference in the game. He also defended two passes.

Statistical oddity: A sign of the Patriots offensive improvement is that they averaged 4 punts per game in their first four weeks but just 2.25 punts per game in the last four.

Water-cooler wisdom: "The P-word is starting to float around in the back of my head."

Keep the faith,

- Scott

PS. 4-4!

Sunday, October 24, 2021

Patriots Crush The Jets, 54-13

The Patriots absolutely pasted the Jets, scoring the game's last 23 points to run away with a 54-13 win. The victory puts the Pats just a half-game behind the division leading Bills, who are idle this week. Next up is a trip to Los Angeles to take on the Chargers.

There's praise all the way around today, but it starts with offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. I'm not always his biggest fan, but he called an excellent game. Ran when he should have, used controlled passes to keep drives alive, took shot plays down the field at the right times, and employed trick plays that caught the Jets defense off-guard.

Not to mention having a great plan coming in, making good adjustments at the half, and using all his players to perfection. It looked like the days of old, the Past scoring on 9 of 10 "real" drives (not including the game-ending kneel downs). This was probably McDaniels' best game since the "old man" left for Tampa -- so kudos to him!

Praise of the offense has to start with the O-line. The Pats shifted Michael Onwenu to right tackle, a position that has been absolutely dreadful this year. He solidified that side and the group gave up five QB hits and one sack, and they also paved the way for 148 yards on the ground. And that was against a very good Jets front seven.

The passing attack was inspired for its creativity. Wideout Kendrick Bourne has found his identity (get it?), grabbing multiple passes for the fifth time in seven games this year. But having him fake a WR screen and throw a pass -- amazing. He's the second wide receiver to throw a TD pass for the Patriots this season, no idea the last time that happened in the NFL.

Additionally, Jakobi Meyers is Mr. Reliable, catching five of seven passes thrown his way, including some tough ones to keep the chains moving. And Brandon Bolden has worked his way nicely into the James White role, leading the team with six catches for 79 yards (and a touchdown). One other note: tight end Hunter Henry is becoming a big threat near the goal line -- he scored again on a tough catch in the back of the end zone.

Quarterback Mac Jones completed a season-low 67% of his passes, but not to knock him, he also had his second-highest QB rating of the year (111.7). In fact, his QB rating for the first five games was 83.4. For the last two games, it's 114.4. He commands the huddle and even ran for a few big plays in this one.

And not to be forgotten, the running game was potent. Damien Harris was over 100 yards again (106) but most impressive were his 7.6 yards per carry and his determination on two touchdown runs. J.J. Taylor got back on the field and picked up 21 yards and two TDs of his own. Brandon Bolden should stick with pass catching, however, he had two rushes for 0 yards :(

The defensive star of the game was linebacker Ja'Whaun Bentley. He consistently made the right reads and attacked the Jets, stopping or redirecting running backs before they could get started or dropping into coverage to make Jets QB Zach Wilson go to a different option. I only wish they had more linebacker firepower; but Josh Uche is still nursing an injury and Jamie Collins hasn't played much since he was traded back to the Pats.

Along the defensive line, Christian Barmore, Deatrich Wise, and Davon Godchaux took turns stuffing runs before they could get started. This is key, as when teams can run on you, there's just no way to stop their offense. It might be a passing league, but most teams will run it down your throat if they can, and the Pats running defense has been suspect this year.

The secondary mostly played a competitive game, with some yards given up but mostly tight coverage. J.C. Jackson played very well, knocking away a pass, staying close to the Jets #1 receiver, and even getting an INT on a great catch along the sideline. Myles Bryant is getting some praise for a sack and a forced fumble late, but he was only okay, giving up a first-down when he lost leverage on a short pass to the flat.

And as always, safeties Kyle Duggar and Adrian Phillips were near the top of the tackle chart and made significant plays throughout the game. It wasn't perfect, there were some pass interference calls and some wide open receivers. But overall not a bad performance from a unit that was undermanned due to injuries.

One last thought: still not enough quarterback pressure from the line or the defense in general. But one step a time.

Special teams did a great job, with Nick Folk good from 39 and 50 yards. His only field goal miss was the 56-yarder in the rain against the Buccaneers. And Jake Bailey using directional kick-offs to hold the dangerous Jets returners in check. (Note: the Patriots offense was so proficient that he only punted once.) Also, not to be forgotten, returner Gunner Olszewski averaged 15 yards on two punt returns and his first kickoff return was to the 35 yard line.

The coaching staff deserves credit for three key things: (1) the offensive line shuffling, (2) having a better game plan to start the game, and (3) holding things together as the team struggled and the injuries mounted.

If the Patriots miss the playoffs they will look back on their opening day loss to the Dolphins. If they make the playoffs, they'll look back at the last two weeks when the offense turned a corner. The Pats scored 96 points the first five weeks of the season. Then they scored 83 in the last two games.

Where does that leave us? 3-4 with three really close losses is a lot better than 2-5 and a loss to the terrible Jets. But it'll all go for naught if they don't crank it up for another win in L. A. next weekend. If they can get to .500 next Sunday then they have hope. But if they fall to 3-5, they are done.

Biggest on-going concern: No longer the offensive line, it's now the health of the secondary. Jonathan Jones will miss at least three weeks, J.C. Jackson was out for some plays against the Jets, and safety Devin McCourty left the game with an injury. Think they could use someone like Stephon Gilmore right about now?

Non-QB MVP: So many to choose from, but I'm going with Bentley. Mostly because his most important plays came early, setting up the Patriots offense to dominate.

Statistical oddity: The Jets longest play of the day was 22 yards. The Patriots had ten plays of 22 yards or more.

Bonus oddity: Bill Belichick has beaten the Jets 35 times in his career, which is the same number of times he has beaten the Buffalo Bills. Those are tied for the NFL record, which BB will undoubtedly own all by himself soon, as the Pats play those two teams twice every year.

Double-bonus oddity: This season the Patriots have six interceptions against the Jets and four interceptions in their other five games.

Overtime-double-bonus oddity: The Pats are 0-4 in games I have attended this year, and 3-0 when I'm not there. (Maybe I should skip the next game I'm scheduled to go to, against Tennessee.)

Water-cooler wisdom: "Win next week and the Pats could be leading the AFC East. If you think the Dolphins can beat the Bills, that is."

Keep the faith,

- Scott

PS. 3-4!

Monday, October 18, 2021

Patriots Lose a Wild One, 35-29 in Overtime

The Pats hung tough yet again and lost a squeaker yet again, falling to the Cowboys 35-29 in overtime. The loss drops them to 2-4, still in second place in the awful AFC East, but they are quickly falling out of any chance to contend for the play... uh, never mind. Next week the Jets visit Gillette, and here's hoping the team can get it's first home victory of the year.

Back and forth, up and down, roller coaster, what's your favorite way to describe a game with four lead changes in the last 12+ minutes? I'd say trick or treat, in honor of the season. The teams scored a total of 31 in the first 45-minutes and 33 the rest of the way. The Cowboys made a dozen mistakes (between penalties and coaching miscues), but their talent was enough to overcome those problems against an undermanned Patriots squad.

The Patriots are now 2-0 on the road and 0-4 at home. (Trivia question: What is the franchise record for home losses in a season? Answer below.) And the team is proof of how tiny the difference is between winning and losing. On the season, the Pats have given up just two more points than they scored and they are 2-4 and going nowhere. The Chargers have also given up two more points than they scored, and they are 4-2 and leading their division.

The story of this season will be their inconsistency. Yesterday they scored two TDs in the first quarter and two TDs in the fourth quarter. In the six drives between they ran 21 plays for 69 yards and zero points and had a fumble and a blocked punt. You can beat the Jets and Texans that way, but are unlikely to prevail over talented squads like the Cowboys.

But even with all that, they were a Nelson Agholor drop (first play of OT) and a gutless punt on 4th-and-3 in overtime away from maybe pulling it out. Once again, I said it in the stadium at the time, they should have gone for it on 4th-and-3 near midfield. They hadn't stopped the Cowboys since the opening drive of the second half, so punting it away was pretty much giving them the win.

If the Patriots lose either of the next two games, they should be sellers at the trade deadline (November 2). If they drop to 3-5 (or worse) with the bulk of their difficult games to come, they should trade anyone decent who won't be helping them in 2022. Given their play this season, I count 4 winnable games after October, and 7 wins won't get you into the post-season.

It obviously wasn't all bad yesterday; here are some of the better performers:

  • QB Mac Jones went 15 of 21 (71%) for 229 yards, two TDs, and one INT (on yet another tipped-ball). His QB rating was 118.9, all of which are impressive in the face of relentless pressure.
  • RBs Damien Harris (18 carries for 101 yards, 1 TD) and Rhamondre Stevenson (5 for 23, 1TD) ran well and protected the ball very well (two-hands all the time!).
  • LB Ja'Whaun Bentley was everywhere against the run, with 13 tackles and a forced-fumble at the goal line that kept the score 17-14 at the half.
  • S Kyle Duggar made impact stops against the run and got a timely interception in the end zone.
  • DE Deatrich Wise Jr. drew two holding calls early and got 6 tackles.
  • S Justin Bethel, a special teamer who was pressed into duty at safety, made several big plays (including tipping the pass that Duggar intercepted).
Who had a bad day?
  • LB Kyle Van Noy got caught in-between coverage and rushing the passer several times.
  • The O-line still gave up too much pressure: 5 QB hits, 2 sacks, and some unacceptable penalties.
  • Cornerbacks (other than JC Jackson): you can't give up 445 yards passing without breakdowns and poor play.
  • OC Josh McDaniels, who waits until runs get stuffed before calling play-action instead of anticipating it and taking advantage. Also, two full quarters without points was partially due to poor play calling.
  • The entire defensive coaching staff; too many points, too many yards, great on third-down, not good on first- and second-downs, lost contain of Prescott just about every time. And all that includes *two* Cowboys end zone turnovers that bailed them out -- or this game would have been a blowout.
Where does that leave us? The season was sorta in the balance yesterday. Now it's really in the balance. Lose either of the next two and you should sell off pieces at the trading deadline. Win them both, and maybe you played your way back into things.

Biggest on-going concern: That the coaches seem to think Tom Brady will be walking through that door. For decades they played close games as if they knew they'd pull it out at the end. But MJ10 isn't TB12, so they can't be punting on 4th-and-short, getting punts blocked, and hoping other teams will soil themselves in big moments.

Jones might well be the quarterback of the future. If so, let him try (and sometimes fail) when the games are on the line.

Non-QB MVP: Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy, who did just about everything he could to keep the Patriots in the game. His opening drive gaffes were soooooo Mike McCarthy.

Statistical oddity: There are six NFL teams with five-or-more wins this season; five of them are in the NFC, pending the Bills game tonight.

Water-cooler wisdom: "I think I hear Don Meredith singing, 'Turn out the lights, the party's over.'"

Keep the faith, if you can,

- Scott

PS. 2-4!

PPS. Trivia answer: the 1990 Patriots went 0-8 at home to set a franchise for homefield futility. Interestingly they could break that record this year, as the extra game makes 0-9 possible.

Sunday, October 10, 2021

Patriots *Win* a Squeaker, 25-22 over the Texans

The Patriots hung on and hung on and hung on and then dominated the fourth quarter to pull out a 25-22 win in Houston. The victory leaves them at 2-3, in second place alone behind the 3-1 Bills (their game pending tonight). Next week the red hot Cowboys come to Gillette for Dak Prescott's second tilt against the Pats.

The Texans game was sort of a story of the two halves. Houston dominated the first half, though on the scoreboard it was only 15-9. But after Mac Jones started the second half with his lone interception, the Texans drew up a flea-flicker for a touchdown that had them in command at 22-9. The Texans next five possessions ended: punt, punt, missed field goal, punt, and fumble. The Patriots next five possessions ended: punt, field goal, field goal, touchdown, and field goal.

Houston's implosion included a botched fake-ish punt, a blown timeout, a 56-yard field goal attempt by a kicker who couldn't hit on single-number-roulette, and a roughing the passer penalty that extended a Patriots drive. The Pats weren't perfect during that stretch, but they were good enough to come back against a team that seemed to insist that the visitors take it.

This game clearly was hangover game from the previous week against the Bucs. But in a game where four of the Patriots starting O-linemen were out with injuries/COVID, where they were down to two RBs at a few points, and where a starting cornerback was inactive, they pulled one out when they probably shouldn't have.

You've heard that story before -- about 50 times over the last two decades plus. But this is the first one with Mac Jones at the helm.

Once again the Patriots depended on the rookie quarterback. He went 23 of 30 (77%) for 231 yards, one TD and one (bad) INT. But maybe most important, the team made 14 first downs on pass plays (or runs by receivers), and just 5 from the running backs. (Note: on his interception, he missed a wide-open checkdown to a running back for an easy 5-7 yard gain. That's why it was a bad throw.)

He completed passes to seven receivers, and six of them had multiple catches. Also, Jones audibled to good plays several times, and in a game this close did not waste any timeouts with confusion or indecision.

The receivers by and large did a great job, both catching and blocking downfield. Hunter Henry had 6 grabs for 75 yards and a touchdown, Jakobi Meyers had 5 of his own (for 56 yards), but will regret the long pass he dropped down the sideline. And quietly Kendrick Bourne is turning into the best playmaker on offense.

The running backs were limited partially because the number of backs was limited. Damien Harris had yet another fumble, this one just before he entered the end zone for a touchdown. And that sent him to the bench for a while, but even when he came back, a chest injury limited his action for the rest of the game. They brought back Rhamondre Stevenson and who knows, maybe JJ Taylor will be back from the doghouse if the injuries continue to mount.

The Pats did run for 126 yards, but it never felt like they could do so when needed. Not surprising given the injuries along the offensive line. But with the trade of Sony Michel, fumble-itis of Harris, Stevenson, and Taylor, and season-ending injury to James White, this group is looking pretty thin at this point.

In honor of Halloween month, the defense was trick-or-treat. Houston went touchdown-touchdown-field goal to start the game, and their QB had a 156.2 rating for the first half, with a couple of long passes against seven-man defensive backfields.

The secondary got chewed up all half, though I will say I've never seen a player have 10 tackles in the first half, which safety Kyle Duggar did. Some of the throws were either perfect or lucky, but you can't write off all the problems on that. There was too much blitzing without enough pressure, and they couldn't really stop the run much, either.

What changed? They started using five- and six-man fronts in the second half, sometimes blitzing and sometimes dropping them into coverage. They let the pass rushers loose to speed up the young quarterback, and frankly the Texans had more near misses. Maybe that was just things averaging out. Everything close went Houston's way in the first half, everything close went the Pats way in the second half.

Among the defenders, both only Duggar and linebacker Matthew Judon stood out. Judon had 2 sacks, 3 QB hits, and just caused havoc for the Houston offense. Oh, and Jamie Collins came off the street to notch a huge sack in the fourth quarter; good to have him back, for the third time :)

Special teams was a blowout in favor of the Patriots. Nick Folk booted four field goals, including two 52-yarders and the game winner. The opposing kicker missed two extra points, missed a 56-yarder, and sent a kickoff out of bounds. Punter Jake Bailey averaged 47 yards net, while his counterpart averaged just 27.3 yards, and after a bad "trick play" call booted it off his own team's helmet (for 0 yards).

But the biggest mismatch was in head coaches. Bill Belichick stayed calm and kept his team in position to take advantage of any miscues. Texans head man David Culley had his team ready to go, but he wasted several timeouts, foolishly tried a 56-yard field goal, and went conservative too early in the second half.

The Patriots coaching wasn't great, but it was better than the opposition.

Where does that leave us? 2-3 keeps hope alive for a competitive season. Unfortunately the easier part of the schedule is over, so they'll have to play better in the coming weeks if they plan to finish over .500. Dallas won't be an easy game, but they have to start pulling out games where they can, any way they can.

Biggest on-going concern: Most definitely the offensive line now. The COVID absences should be back next week. But they haven't played well since Trent Brown got injured.

Non-QB MVP: Nick Folk. Two 52-yarders kept them in the game, and he finished the job with a 21-yard kick at the end.

Statistical oddity: Jakobi Meyers now has 116 receptions for 1,390 yards in his career without a touchdown catch. Those numbers are an NFL record. (The irony is he has thrown two touchdown passes in his career!)

(Note: to the best of my knowledge, Meyers is also the only player who's name I have misspelled on this blog. My apologies, Jakobi.)

Water-cooler wisdom: "If they turn things around and just miss the playoffs, will the Bucs or the Dolphins loss sting more?"

Keep the faith,

- Scott

PS. 2-3!

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Patriots Lose Squeaker to Bucs & TB12, 19-17

The Patriots played better but it wasn't enough to top the Super Bowl champs in Tom Brady's return to Gillette. The 19-17 loss drops them to 1-3 and into a three-way tie for second/last place in the AFC East. Next up is a trip to Houston to take on the reeling Texans.

It seems apparent to me at this point that the Patriots were looking past the Saints toward this showdown. And of course, it went as expected. Their game plan, in-game adjustments, and performance under pressure were all much better against the Bucs than the Saints.

Given the lateness of this entry, I'll just cover a few topics.

1. Should have gone for it on 4th-and-3

Live, at the stadium, in real time, before they kicked the ball, I said this to the folks around me. Apparently the analytics say that attempting the field goal gave the team a 42% chance of winning, whereas going for it held just a 34.5% chance of a victory.

But the analytics don't take a few things into account:
  • A rainy and windy night makes the kick much tougher
  • The previous two drives: 10 points and a whopping 9.5 yards per play
  • Even if the kick was good, TB (and TB12) would have had 50 seconds and two timeouts to go about 45 yards and try a field goal to win it anyway.
In Super Bowl 49, Belichick famously did not call timeout with the Seahawks threatening to run it in for a winning touchdown. He did this because he sensed confusion on the Seattle sideline and thought a timeout would have helped them. In that case, even though the conventional wisdom was to take the timeout, as head coach his job was to decide if that was right for the game situation.

IMO, he blew this one. Some theorize that he was protecting the young quarterback, allowing either himself or his kicker to take the blame if the field goal was no good. But that's bogus in my book. The game flow and situation said it was best to go for it. And it was actually important because there is a massive difference between a 1-3 and a 2-2 record.

2. Mac Jones won the QB battle

Jones played well in the face of yet more pressure. The O-line allowed 12 quarterback hits and four sacks, and yet Jones completed 77.5% of his passes and got two touchdowns and just one interception (under pressure, naturally). He also audibled to the right play several times and twice he avoided the rush when blitzers came untouched up the middle.

Also impressive was his ability to overcome not one, but two, holding calls on the same drive. They forced him to convert a first-and-20 and also a second-and-20 later in the drive. He was poised, took the plays he could make, and converted both to keep possession.

Brady didn't play great, but of course, just like when he was here, he came up with the plays he needed to win.

3. Matthew Judon can blow stuff up

Judon is a beast against the pass. He had two quarterback hits, one sack, two tackles for a loss, and drew a key penalty on a 50-yard pass by the Bucs. He does lose outside contain against the run, but I hope that doesn't get him in the doghouse because he is so effective against the pass.

4. Josh McDaniels is still mediocre, IMO

Once McDaniels realized the Patriots couldn't run he finally adjusted with play-action on early downs. The problem is it took him way too long to make that adjustment. In the first half they ran the ball on first down 6 times for -14 yards (including a penalty). McDaniels needs to figure out these things faster and adjust quicker.

Once he went play-action the Patriots basically shredded the Tampa defense with short passes most of the rest of the game. In the stands we were calling for that after the first two or three drives -- not sure why we can see what the offensive coordinator can't.

I give him credit for the two trick plays and eventually abandoning the run. But if he'd gone pass-heavy one drive earlier it might have gotten the points they needed to win.

5. The offensive line flat out stinks

As a team the Patriots had 8 rushes for -1 yard. And a wide receiver got 4 yards on an end around, so the rest of the runs totaled -5 yards. Please pause for a moment to consider just how hard it is to end up with negative rushing yards. Especially in a league that stacks defenses to stop the pass.

As if that wasn't enough, they gave up 4 sacks and 12 quarterback hits, and it would have been much worse if Jones hadn't thrown the ball so quickly. Trent Brown's injury doesn't explain it all. Center David Andrews isn't playing well, Brown's replacement tandem have been horrifyingly bad, and left tackle Isaiah Wynn stacks one dreadful game after another.

Does anyone have Dante Scarnecchia's cell number on speed dial? Remember that when he retired the first time the O-line was fine the next year and imploded the year after. That prompted BB to call Scar out of retirement. Well, this is the second year since his second retirement, and it looks like the same pattern.

(And note; Wynn and left guard Michael Onwenu are on the COVID list, so this isn't likely to get better this Sunday against Houston.)

6. Problems with the little things

The team is still making basic mistakes they should have corrected by now. Poorly timed penalties (Matthew Slater, O-line holds), yet another time out because they only had 10 men on defense, a penalty because they had 12 men on defense, and they lost the turnover battle 2-0.

Belichick teams are famous for avoiding these pitfalls. And they can't make any more excuses about the missing/extra players on defense. Someone needs to be punished for this; it can't keep happening.

7. I didn't see the television coverage, but...

Who has their "tongue out Steve Belichick" costume on order for Halloween?

Where does that leave us? 1-3 and hoping to catch fire and get a sniff of a playoff run. The pity is they should have won against Miami and could have beaten the Bucs, which would have given them a 3-1 record and a share of the division lead. Even if they had split those games, 2-2 sounds a lot more hopeful than 1-3.

Unfortunately their offensive line is in even deeper trouble, with COVID taking a toll this week. The Texans aren't good, but at this point no game looks like an easy win.

Biggest on-going concern: The Offensive Line is now the biggest problem on the team. Penalties and turnovers are big. But if they don't improve up front, Mac Jones might not make it through the season.

Non-QB MVP: Judon, a man among boys.

Statistical oddity: In addition to beating all 32 teams, Tom Brady's victory over Belichick marks the 100th head coach he has topped in his NFL career. (Trivia question: who was the NFL head coach Brady beat in his first NFL start? Answer below.)

Water-cooler wisdom: "This loss was expected; the one to the Dolphins will haunt them later in the year."

Keep the faith,

- Scott

PS. 1-3!

PPS. Trivia Answer:
The first game Tom Brady won as a starter in the NFL came over none other than Jim "Playoffs?!?!" Mora, a 44-13 drubbing of his Colts.