Although the Patriots successfully added another check in the win column, their overall performance left much to be desired. Outside of the incredible performance by the defense collectively, Mac Jones and the offense appeared as discombobulated as they have all season.
With half of the season gone and only tougher competition left to be faced, the fate of the Patriots feels murky at best. There is certainly time left to improve, and the AFC East is still up for grabs, with only one win separating those in first and last place. Despite the division title remaining within reach, it’s unlikely the Patriots will be able to sneak by opponents with an offensive performance similar to Sunday’s, leaving their chances of appearing as actual competition up in the air.
As their struggles continue with little to no improvement over the weeks, racking in another win fails to feel worth celebrating. However, a few things were made clear again from their performance, and it’s not all clouded skies notwithstanding the rampant negativity circling this team.
Bill Belichick finessed the league when signing Matthew Judon
As if anyone needed to be reminded of how valuable Matthew Judon is to the Patriots, Sunday’s game was yet another prime example.
Accomplishing the best season of his career in 2021, the pass rusher is off to an even hotter start this year as he projects to beat several of those career-best statistics. He entered the week tied atop the league for most sacks on the season and added to that total right away as he sacked Colts quarterback Sam Ehlinger on the very first play.
Continuing to bring the heat throughout the entire game, Judon tallied three sacks and four quarterback hits. He maintained the pressure needed to disturb the quarterback while ensuring his teammates added to their stat sheets as well. With much of his help, the defense totaled nine sacks for 60 yards, tying the single-game franchise record.
Judon is on pace to break yet another Patriots defensive record based on his performance through eight games this season. With a total of 11.5 sacks after this game, he is projected to reach 21.5 by the season’s end, beating the franchise’s single-season record of 18.5.
One of the best parts about Judon’s presence on the team is his incredible ability to elevate those around him. As the main productive piece defensively last season, several of his teammates have dramatically increased their production, taking much of the weight off his shoulders. But through it all, Judon continuously makes the plays needed week in and week out and refuses to let the rest of the league forget that they let Bill Belichick sign him in free agency, and they missed out.
Mac Jones and the offense are a confusing group
It’s a strange sight to behold when it’s clear the team is loaded with talent but can’t seem to accomplish much positive production. Despite not having a “true top star” on offense, plenty of proven playmakers are waiting to be unleashed. But what exactly is holding them back? What is the issue the offense cannot seem to overcome?
There are several potential answers to that question; it just depends on who you ask. Most theories involve an alleged Mac Jones regression or the lack of successful play-calling from Matt Patricia. Regardless of the actual problem facing the offense, something needs to be done quickly, or the season is over before the second half even begins.
Sunday’s performance had its ups and downs, most notably Jones not turning the ball over for the first time in a game this season. Although that was a progression of his overall performance, his poor vision of the field from the beginning of the year reared its ugly head. Throughout the game, open receivers were missed as Jones threw in a different direction, or he stuck to his first read and missed an opportunity to make a big play, a repeated misstep made by the quarterback throughout his six games played.
On top of those miscues comes no help from the offensive line, a group that performed well for a handful of weeks but has struggled to maintain that consistency over the last two games.
Not only was Jones sacked four times for a loss of 14 yards, but we saw more lineman rotation as Cole Strange was seemingly benched after receiving an illegal hands to the face penalty. The absence of David Andrews has taken its toll and appears to be the leading cause of the line’s problems, directly impacting Jones’ production.
Some of the troubles facing the line could likely be solved with Andrews’ return, but the rest of the offense becomes more confusing by the week.
The play-calling seems inconsistent and unoriginal. Top players are not being utilized like they were most successful last season. Jones’s confidence appears to be shaken. We are still waiting to see a true offensive identity, and we’re heading into week ten. It’s a lot to process going into the bye week, making a win much less satisfying.
Nick Folk is the only consistent player of the Patriots
One of the few things that remain constant about this team is Nick Folk’s ability to be points on the board when the offense can’t do it themselves.
As touchdowns continue to evade the Patriots, Folk has become a critical piece along with the defense to keep them in games and pull out wins. On Sunday, he accounted for 14 points of the 26 total scored, with four field goals made plus two extra points. It marked the third game that Folk attempted four or more field goals this season, going 9-for-9 over the last two games.
It’s always a positive when a team has a reliable kicker, especially for the Patriots, who have struggled to find that. But as the season continues and they match up with more explosive teams, relying on field goals will not be a recipe for success.