The Patriots’ best and worst performances of week two

PITTSBURGH, PENNSYLVANIA - SEPTEMBER 18: Nelson Agholor #15 of the New England Patriots celebrates a touchdown during the first half in the game against the New England Patriots at Acrisure Stadium on September 18, 2022 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PENNSYLVANIA - SEPTEMBER 18: Nelson Agholor #15 of the New England Patriots celebrates a touchdown during the first half in the game against the New England Patriots at Acrisure Stadium on September 18, 2022 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images) /

The Patriots were facing a must-win game as they headed to Pittsburgh to play the Steelers in week two. After losing a very winnable game last week to the Dolphins, the team’s overall goal was to build upon the good they could take from the loss and secure the first win of the season.

Although there is certainly a lot New England needs to improve on, their performance this week looked much better in several areas. They ran into many of the same issues dealt with in week one, like penalties and poor decision-making. But it was clear there was an emphasis in practice this week to address their weaker areas and that showed in this game.

It was a hard-fought battle to get the win and it couldn’t have come on a better day than the 500th game played since Robert Kraft bought the team in 1994. With such incredible success in those 28 years, earning the W was extra special; and winning against the Steelers (of all teams) made it that much sweeter.

Who performed the best for the Patriots?

Nelson Agholor

It was finally time that we saw a big game from Agholor in New England, and boy did he have himself a game on Sunday.

In a better offensive effort against the Steelers this week, Agholor helped the Patriots gain the lead with an impressive catch and run touchdown right before halftime. They were facing another 3rd down near midfield and were hoping to score before the end of the quarter, especially knowing they got the ball to start the second half.

Despite not having the best luck in deep passes through two games, Mac Jones launched the ball downfield to Agholor, who went on to “Moss” Steelers’ cornerback, Ahkello Witherspoon for a 44-yard touchdown.

The score helped the Patriots get back on top and would become a giant contributor to why the team would get the win.

At the end of the game, Agholor would have the perfect day as he totaled 6/6 receptions for 110 yards and a touchdown. His speed and ability to make difficult catches were on full display all game long and were the exact reason the Patriots chose to sign him last season.

This would mark his first 100-yard game in New England and the first receiver to accomplish that since Jakobi Meyers against Miami in 2020.

Offensive line

When protecting the quarterback and opening gaps up for the running backs, the offensive line has been the weakest part of the offense. But that changed on Sunday when they showed noticeable improvement from just one week ago.

Leading up to the game, a massive win was scored when the Steelers announced that star linebacker T.J. Watt would be missing the game due to injury. With the struggles they’ve faced throughout the preseason to week two, it made the o-line’s job far easier to not have to line up across from him.

Outside of a few bad penalties and unfavorable sequences in the first half, the line was able to maintain protection of Jones, not surrendering a single sack during the entire game. The Steelers’ defense wasn’t bringing the pressure that is usually expected, which helped the Patriots keep their quarterback off the ground.

The o-line also made the running backs’ jobs easier, opening space for Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson to total 24 carries for 118 yards and a touchdown. This was a massive jump from last week and allowed seamless execution for the offense to move the ball down the field.

There continue to be struggles needing to be ironed out, but the progress made in just one week indicates the team is moving in the right direction.

Defense! Defense!

In just two games so far in the 2022 season, it’s looking more apparent that this Patriots team will be led by their young and aggressive defense.

Last week, regardless of the result, the defense was able to hold the Dolphins to just 13 offensively scored points. Miami would then play in Baltimore for week two and score 42 points to win the game.

This week, the Patriots would nearly repeat that performance in Pittsburgh, a team that just went toe-to-toe with the AFC Champions, the Cincinnati Bengals, and beat them in overtime. The Steelers were held to 259 yards of total offense and allowed only 14 points in this week’s game, showing two weeks of dominant defensive production from New England.

They shut down the run game once again too, limiting Pittsburgh’s running backs to only 91 yards on the ground. And the pass rush continued to get to the quarterback totaling three sacks for -16 yards and three QB hits.

As the offense works through their struggles, it’s reassuring to see the defense start the season super aggressive and strong while also showing consistency through the first two games.

Matthew Judon

It was another week and another fantastic performance by one of the leaders of the defense, Matthew Judon. The linebacker would have quite the stat line to end the game, totaling four tackles, one sack, one TFL, one PD, and one QB hit.

But his most memorable play of the day came late in the fourth quarter. With fantastic coverage on the play, Judon would make the stop on third down by forcing an incomplete pass to Najee Harris. This caused the Steelers’ drive to come to a halt,  making them punt and ending their chance to tie or win the game.

Mack Wilson Sr. and Jalen Mills

What may be a forgotten moment of this game, Jalen Mills was all over Diontae Johnson in the first quarter and forced a fumble by the running back. Josh Uche would scoop and run the football for 38 yards into the endzone, which was called a touchdown on the field. The play would be overturned and given back to the Steelers, but the aggressive play was a good moment for an already standout defense.

Later in the first quarter, Mack Wilson tracked the ball perfectly as it left Mitchell Trubisky’s grasp. Wilson would get his fingertips on the ball, causing it to fly above intended receiver, Diontae Johnson’s head, and right into Mills’ hands.

Mills would run for 13 yards on the play, with Wilson following behind to get a last-second tackle in before running out of bounds. The Patriots’ drive would end similarly shortly thereafter, but the effort made by Mills continues to be on par for his earned CB1 status this season.

Honorable mentions

Brenden Schooler

When special teams ace, Justin Bethel was let go on cutdown day, there was a lot of concern about the future of what has become the most consistently successful unit of the Patriots’ team under Belichick.

Undrafted free agent, Brenden Schooler was kept in Bethel’s place and made a huge play late in the third quarter on Sunday.

Jake Bailey took the field to punt the ball down to Steelers’ returner and former Patriot, Gunner Olszewski. When retrieving the football, Olszewski muffed the catch, which led to Schooler jumping to recover it at Pittsburgh’s 20-yard line.

The Steelers would be flagged for unnecessary roughness, pushing the Patriots’ offense to the 10-yard line. And in three short plays, Damien Harris would score what ended up being the game-clinching touchdown.

Jabrill Peppers

After Kyle Dugger left the game with a knee injury in the third quarter, Peppers would enter the game in his place. The hybrid safety would be seen all over the field for the rest of the game.

His most impressive sequence of the game came during the Steelers’ first drive after halftime. With back-to-back open field tackles, Peppers limited Diontae Johnson to only a two-yard gain and stopped Jaylen Warren from attaining any positive yardage.

Because the Patriots opened the second half with a missed field goal, a big opportunity slipped away to give them a more comfortable lead. Peppers’ two tackles forced the Steelers to a 4th and 8 and they would settle for a 52-yard field goal.

Damien Harris

Much to the improvements made by the offensive line, Harris was able to get back on track and have a successful day on the ground. He would lead the day with 15 carries for 71 yards and one touchdown, which helped put the Patriots over the edge in what would be the winning score.

With Ty Montgomery out for at least the next three games, Harris and Stevenson will likely see an increase in playing time. If the o-line can continue on the improvement streak they’re on, the two backs will easily become one of the better 1-2 punches in the league once again.

Middle-of-the-road performance

Mac Jones

It seems the fairest to consider Mac Jones neither good nor bad this week because although his performance was not great, it wasn’t terrible either.

The game would start much better than it did last week, as Jones led the way down the field to set up a field goal on their first drive. He would follow that up with a debatable decision after the Patriots’ defense logged an interception.

First, Jones would miss a wide-open Lil’Jordan Humphrey that likely would have resulted in a big play. He would then throw a deep pass intended for DeVante Parker resulting in Steelers’ star safety, Minkah Fitzpatrick making the interception.

This would be the quarterback’s only turnover of the game, a big improvement from the events of the last game. But his questionable decision-making continues to be his biggest struggle.

Another worrisome decision came in the fourth quarter when Jones chose to make a throw to Jonnu Smith, who was smothered by Steelers’ defenders. Both Jakobi Meyers and Kendrick Bourne were open on the play, but Jones made the wrong read and the incomplete led to yet another punt.

Jones would end the day with 21/35 completions for 252 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. He would lead a successful final drive of the game with the offense showing good urgency and promise for upcoming games. However, the misreads and inaccuracy Jones has shown through two games this season is one of the bigger weaknesses the offense is facing and needs to be addressed quickly as it’s still early in the season.

Who performed the worst for the Patriots?

Where are the tight ends?

By this point last season, Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith were fully integrated into the Patriots’ offense. Both were making plays and pushing the ball downfield, displaying the type of tight ends the team really needed.

The same cannot be said through the first two games this year. Henry has made two catches for 20 yards and Smith has three receptions for 33 yards, all of which came in week one.

The clear connection between Jones and Henry flourished in their first New England season but appears a bit off track so far in 2022. And after all the offseason work that Smith had done, it is yet to show up on the football field.

With the offense still not performing at its best just yet, that may be the only explanation for both tight ends’ lack of involvement. But if this trend continues into the next few games, there may be a bigger issue that Belichick will need to figure out and fix ASAP.

Still no Kendrick Bourne?

Much of the discussion regarding Bourne’s status with the team over the last week focused on his lack of involvement with the offense despite being healthy. Coming into week two, there was hope he would be implemented into the game plan more particularly due to the struggles offensively last week.

The offense looked better than it had, but Bourne didn’t see a drastic increase of throws his way. Last week, he was on the field for two total snaps and would make an eye-popping 41-yard catch. This week, although he was on the field for 21 snaps, Bourne totaled two receptions for just 16 yards.

The situation remains confusing, especially as Jones’ chemistry with presumed WR2 DeVante Parker and one of his favorite targets last year, Hunter Henry seems missing. Coming off a career-high season last year, it appeared Bourne was on the path to keeping that level of success going, but we’re still trying to determine what has gone wrong this offseason.

DeVante Parker

When the Patriots chose to trade for the former Dolphins receiver, it seemed his play style would be what the team hoped to have gotten from their former first-round receiver, N’Keal Harry.

Despite a promising training camp and preseason, Parker is yet to make an impact on his new team. Through two games so far, he is 0/4 receptions and two of those ended in interceptions.

Because it is so early in the season and new players with the Patriots have struggled in their first year, it’s possible Parker will gain his footing at some point this season. His lack of production doesn’t appear to be anything serious at this point but more of a discrepancy in chemistry between quarterback and receiver. If the two can get on the same page, Parker could become a big piece of the offense going forward.

Not-so-fun parts of the game


With a defense that has been on a roll to start the season, it was a nerve-wracking few minutes of the game when both Davon Godchaux and Ja’Whaun Bentley both left the game due to back injuries.

They would eventually get back on the field, with a big sigh of relief from all around New England. But Kyle Dugger, who appeared to suffer a knee injury in the third quarter, did not return to the game. The severity of the injury remains unclear at this moment, but hopefully, it’s nothing serious as Dugger was already well on his way to having a highlight season.


Untimely penalties continue to plague this team, ending promising drives early and swinging momentum in their opponents’ favor. On Sunday, the team totaled seven penalties for a loss of 55 yards, all of which occurred with the offense on the field.

Flags are going to be thrown in every single game, no matter what teams are playing. But when several of those penalties are avoidable and pile up, it becomes a glaring issue for the team to overcome.

The Patriots’ offense earned two false start flags(by Isaiah Wynn and Mike Onwenu), a delay of game, and three holding calls. Four of the seven penalties led to the collapse of the drive, forcing Jake Bailey to punt.

Because they are facing other issues within the team, adding avoidable penalties on top of that only makes a game much harder to win.