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Report Card: New England Patriots vs. New Orleans Saints



New England Patriots wide receiver Kendrick Bourne

Last weeks’s New England Patriots Report Card had failing grades for the coaches and quarterbacks. There was generally not much for the team or their fans to feel good about. Somehow, facing a must-win game against the New Orleans Saints on Sunday, the franchise performed even worse. The bad got even worse and the bright spots were even harder to find.

For the second week in a row the Patriots were never in this game. After allowing yet another defensive touchdown to fall behind 7-0 in the first quarter, things got progressively worse.. In a 34-0 loss there is not much for anyone on the losing side to feel good about. That is reflected in this week’s report card…

Coaching: F

When things were going well for the New England Patriots, Bill Belichick credited the players. With things now going south, most of the blame belongs to the players as well. With that said, Belichick and the Patriots coaching staff is simply not getting the job done. Decisions to start Vederian Lowe at right tackle for the third straight week was an odd choice, which did not pay off. Punting the ball in the third quarter felt like throwing in the towel. And speaking of throwing laundry, Belichick did not challenge a potential Kyle Dugger interception that appeared worthy of at least a review.

Bill O’Brien’s offense was unimaginative and ineffective yet again. Not only has this not been a significant improvement over Matt Patricia’s crew from a season ago. And while the Patriots coaches often received credit for the team discipline, yesterday they had a wide receiver get two false starts penalties. Adrian Klemm has not made a positive improvement on the offense line in his first year back in Foxboro. Cam Achord’s special teams unit was abysmal. The defensive coaches might not deserve to fail, but they also did not do enough to get this overall unit a passing grade.

Quarterback: F

Mac Jones looked awful against the Dallas Cowboys. Jones looked awful once again against the New Orleans Saints. One again the New England Patriots quarterback had three turnovers. When the head coach emphasizes that “nothing is more important than ball security” having one player have six turnovers in two weeks is less than ideal. Two more interceptions and a lost fumble for Jones yesterday would be enough to fail him.

But even when not turning the ball over, Jones was not good. Excluding the two interceptions, he completed 10-of-20 attempts for 110 yards and no touchdowns. It led Belichick calling Bailey Zappe from the bullpen for the second week in a row. Once again Zappe did nothing to create a QB controversy in New England, overthrowing open receivers and finishing 3-of-9 for 22 yards.

Running Backs: D

Rhamondre Stevenson and Ezekiel Elliott combined to amass 45 on 16 carries. While 2.8 yards per carry is nothing to celebrate, the backs themselves looked more decisive running the ball than they had in recent weeks. This unit easily could have gotten an incomplete because it is hard to evaluate running backs with no room to run. Elliott did help in the passing game, catching all for of his targets for 17 yards. Stevenson was targeted twice but did not register a reception. Ty Montgomery is also included in this group (although he’s listed as a wide receiver on the official New England Patriots roster). His most notable play came when he failed to secure a reception, leading to Mac Jones second interception of the game.

Wide Receivers: F

The Patriots wide receivers only passed last week because of a nice catch and run by Demario Douglas. Perhaps if Douglas had not been injured while making a nice 24-yard reception in the first quarter, he could have saved them again. Unfortunately, Douglas was hit in the head on the reception. The rookie did not return to the game. JuJu Smith-Schuster led the unit with three receptions but gained only six yards. Kendrick Bourne had a 28-yard reception from Jones at the start of the third quarter but also had two false start penalties as a wide receiver. The lack of production can be partially attributed to Bill O’Brien and Mac Jones and the offensive line, but the wide receivers are also doing nothing to disprove their critics.

Tight Ends: D

A week ago the tight ends were arguably the lone bright spot for the New England Patriots. Yesterday the tight ends were largely as lousy as everyone else. Hunter Henry, who had been the team’s most reliable weapon had no receptions. He was only targeted twice, the second time being Zappe missing him wide-open by a bunch. Mike Gesicki caught two of four targets for 17 yards. Pharaoh Brown was not targeted. If their lack of production as receiving options is due to needing to help block, one would imagine the protection would be solid. The protection was not. Is this coaching? Is it execution? Much like the rest of this disastrous performance, it is hard to pinpoint where the blame belongs, but the results were not good.

Offensive Line: F

The only silver lining of the New England Patriots offensive line yesterday was the performance of RG Mike Onwenu finally looking more like his old, productive self. Too bad Onwenu played only 22 snaps before leaving injured (ankle) and not returning. The Vederian Lowe experiment at right tackles has likely come to an end after another very rough outing.

Trent Brown had been arguably the best player on the Patriots entire offense to start the season. Yesterday Brown was not good. He looked lost at times, struggling with technique. The left tackle failed to even get a hand on Carl Granderson while allowing a sack. It was the worst game of the season for both Brown and Atonio Mafi, who was filling in for Cole Strange at left guard. Center David Andrews continues his downward trajectory as well with another rough outing. Riley Reiff rotated with Mafi at guard before taking over for Onwenu. In his first action of the season, Reiff did not out of place in this poorly performing unit.

Defensive Line: C-minus

For the second week in a row, Deatrich Wise Jr. played a very solid football game. He finished the day with seven tackles (four solo). Davon Godchaux, Lawrence Guy and Christian Barmore all did a decent job as well. The unit limited Saints running backs Alvin Kamara and Kendre Miller to 117 yards on 34 carries (3.4 yards per carry). The defensive line also did a nice job occupying blockers so Ja’Whaun Bentley could step up and make plays. There was no pressure put on the quarterback from the group, resulting in zero QB hits. For the second week in a row, Keion White was barely noticeable. The rookie needs to be a difference-maker along the defensive front.

Linebacker: C

Ja’Whaun Bentley was the best player on the New England Patriots yesterday. The middle linebacker finished with a team-high 11 tackles (five solo) and a sack. Although Bentley failed to get containment on one outside run, he was otherwise effective. Jahlani Tavai also had a solid game for the Patriots being around the ball. Matthew Judon was clearly missed from a pass rushing perspective. Bentley registered the lone sack of the day. There was not nearly enough pressure coming from Josh Uche and Anfernee Jennings. Uche was a non-factor in the game, while Jennings did chip in with five tackles.

Defensive Backs: C-plus

Myles Bryant recorded a coverage sack for the defense. Hate to criticize one of the few positive plays for New England, but it looked like he had a chance to go for a strip sack on the play. Just the same, solid tackle around the waist to bring down the Saints QB. Kyle Dugger had what appeared to be an interception ruled incomplete, as noted above. Jabrill Peppers played deep, giving up too big of a cushion to the New Orleans passing game. It was his least effective outing of the season.

Cornerback play was not bad, especially given the circumstances. With CB1 Christian Gonzalez now won injured reserve, and both Jack Jones and Marcus Jones still out, the unit held their own. Neither J.C. Jackson nor Jonathan Jones looked rusty in their first game back in the lineup (Jackson’s first back with the New England Patriots altogether). Shaun Wade did get picked on at times but held up well. Overall, a respectable performance from a shorthanded group.

Special Teams: F

Just a terrible performance from the Patriots special teams. Poor snaps by Joe Cardona are starting to become a regular occurrence. This is a surprising turn for the long snapper that has been quietly reliable for eight seasons. Chad Ryland missed another field goal attempt, this one from 48-yards out in the first quarter. It would have gotten the New England Patriots on the board and made the score 14-3. Instead, the Saints used the good field position to quickly score and make it 21-0. Game over. Ryland has now hit just 50% of his field goal attempts on the season. Punter Bryce Baringer also had two shanks in the game (one the result of trying to recover from a poor snap). Even special teams GOAT Matthew Slater picked up a penalty in the game for an illegal block, though it appeared to be either a bad call or called on the wrong person. For a group that is such a point of emphasis from Bill Belichick, this unit continues to be bad.