At this point there there is no need to discuss what the New England Patriots keys to success are. Is there anyone left on the planet that turning over the football is not a recipe for success? Or that blocking defensive players makes playing offense easier? Being a successful NFL team is not quite as complicated as the Patriots have made it look for most of this season but can they do what needs to be done today in Las Vegas?
Spoiler alert: Another awful performance and this might be Mac Jones‘ last game starting at quarterback for the New England Patriots. It will increase the noise that Bill Belichick needs to be replaced. And if there is another awful loss today, cries for the New England Patriots to tank for a high draft pick are only going to get louder.
So for those who haven’t been paying attention during losses to the Eagles, Dolphins, Cowboys and Saints; another look at the keys to success. (note: important to point out the one time the Patriots did a good job with the keys to the game, they beat the Jets for their lone win of the season!)
It is crucial for the New England Patriots to get out to a strong start. The way things have been going it could crush the confidence of the team if they fall behind early. Mac Jones said he wants to have fun this week and the bad body language could be tough to hide if they are playing catch-up. Getting up early is more important than just for confidence though. Playing from behind makes the offense more predictable. New England lacks a dynamic offense, so this cannot be afforded. The Patriots are having enough trouble moving the ball when the opponent doesn’t know what’s coming. Start strong, build confidence, play loose, be unpredictable.
Win the Turnover Battle
Obviously this starts with the Patriots quarterback. Mac Jones had three turnovers in each of their two blowout losses following the Jets win. If New England loses the turnover battle, they will lose the game. It has been true in all five games so far this season. As Bill Belichick has stressed, “nothing is more important than ball security.” Coach Belichick is not wrong.
It is also important for the New England Patriots defense to be able to force some turnovers. Last week Myles Bryant had two forced fumbles, but the Patriots recovered neither. Due to the offense’s ineptitude, the defense has been asked to do a lot just to keep them in games. In the last two games, they have lost by a combined score of 72-3. The offense has allowed the Cowboys and Saints to score three defensive touchdowns. That certainly needs to stop. But a defensive touchdown of their own would be nice too. Maybe having “Mr. INT” J.C. Jackson back can help in that department against the Raiders.
Play to Win
Last week the New England Patriots played the New Orleans Saints in what felt like a “must win game” to avoid falling to 1-4 on the season. The Patriots lost the game they must win by a score of 34-0. So at this point, New England has absolutely nothing to lose. Playing to not lose (or even worse, to not get blown out) is pointless. Things cannot get worse. So play to win!
This means opening up the playbook and taking some gambles. This means not punting the ball from midfield just to give the ball back to the opposition while trailing by multiple scores in the second half. Through caution to the wind. Both Bill Belichick and Bill O’Brien are on the hook in this category. Perhaps they are playing conservative because of a lack of faith in the players. That is fine to a point, but playing conservatively is not going to help them; especially if they don’t accomplish the first two goals listed above.
Have Some Pride
New England Patriots legend Tedy Bruschi said that plethora of players on the injury report makes him question “how motivated they are to play.” Not an encouraging analysis from a man who came back from a stroke to play for the Patriots. Whether or not New England is undermanned or overmatched is irrelevant. These are professional athletes and coaches who put too much time into their professions to simply quit.
If the Patriots want to continue having engaged fans, give them reason to stay engaged. Play hard. Take pride in a job well done, regardless of results. There are two groups of people that could lead the way in this department: team captains and rookies. Mac Jones, Hunter Henry, David Andrews, Deatrich Wise, Jr., Ja’Whaun Bentley and Matthew Slater need to lead by example. Last week Bentley did his part, being one of the few bright spots on the New England Patriots roster. The rookies need to also step up and show something today, namely that they are capable of being productive NFL players. Keion White should lead the way for this group with his performance, but Kayshon Boutte, Malik Cunningham, Atonio Mafi, Sidy Sow, Chad Ryland and Bryce Baringer all need to take advantage of whatever opportunities they receive.
Unfortunately, the Patriots have given even their most ardent supporters nothing to feel good about in recent weeks. They lost close games to the Eagles and Dolphins, but following a win against the Jets have been downright despicable in consecutive weeks. Usually it is a safe bet to pick the Patriots to come out strong with their back against the wall, but what has this team done to deserve the benefit of the doubt? To this point in the 2023 campaign, nothing.
Final Score: Las Vegas Raiders 27, New England Patriots 24