There was a day, not too long ago, that the New England Patriots being embarrassed meant bad things for their next opponent.
Those days also included Tom Brady at quarterback and plenty of good players around him.
The Patriots don’t have the ability to take revenge on anyone anymore. If there was any question that the Patriots’ dominance is a long gone memory, it came on Sunday.
The Patriots lost 38-3 to the Dallas Cowboys in Week 4. While that was an extreme for the Patriots, as the worst loss of Bill Belichick’s career, they’ve rebounded from bad losses before with statement wins. In the old days, Sunday would have been a problem for the New Orleans Saints. In the current reality, the Saints handed Belichick the second-worst loss of his coaching career. The Saints won 34-0 in a game that was never in doubt. The Saints took a 31-0 lead in the fourth quarter, and that marked the first time in Belichick’s career he has ever trailed by 30 at home according to ESPN Stats and Info. That’s two straight weeks of unwanted history in a storied career.
In previous years when everyone would write off the Patriots, Belichick would give snippy answers to the media, and New England would make everyone’s takes look terrible as they rattled off a winning streak. It seems safe to say that’s not happening this season. The Patriots are just bad.
The lowest moment for the Patriots in a season that has already had plenty of low moments came in the third quarter. New England had fourth-and-3 at the Saints’ 40-yard line. The Patriots trailed 24-0. And they punted. In effect, they gave up. It was an admission from Belichick that he had absolutely no faith in his offense gaining three yards in a situation that unquestionably called for going for it. It was a terrible call by Belichick, and a sign of how miserable New England is this season.
Belichick is still an all-time great coach — the dislike of him and the past few seasons will lead many people to incorrectly say he’s not, but that’s foolish — but his personnel decisions are making his coaching job a lot tougher. The Patriots might have the fewest blue-chip players in the NFL. Their best player is probably pass rusher Matthew Judon, who was out on Sunday with an injury. Judon is good but not on the level of a T.J. Watt or Nick Bosa. And the Patriots’ second-best player is … whew. Good luck coming up with that answer. Whoever you name, it won’t be pretty and won’t be someone who should be the second-best player on an NFL roster.
It all might be OK if New England had a quarterback, but they don’t. Mac Jones had a promising rookie season and has been fading ever since. He had bad turnovers against the Cowboys last week that took New England out of the game. Early on Sunday, he threw blindly to the middle of the field under pressure, and Saints safety Tyrann Mathieu had an easy pick-6. It all went downhill after that. If the Patriots had another option they’d probably bench Jones, but they don’t. Bailey Zappe came in during the fourth quarter. He replaced Jones last week too, and Belichick said it wasn’t because of poor performance from Jones.
The Belichick question will start to gain more steam. Could the Patriots really fire a legend who brought them six Super Bowl wins? If the rest of the season goes like the past two games, we might find out the answer.
Nothing in the NFL lasts forever. The Patriots being mostly unbeatable for a 19-year stretch with Brady as their starter might never be replicated again. That era seemed like a hundred years ago, especially watching the Patriots get absolutely blasted in back-to-back weeks.
The Patriots have gone from great to boring to terrible in a few seasons’ time. Belichick has gone from having a nearly airtight argument as the GOAT to squeezing the most out of a bad roster to being absolutely uncompetitive in back-to-back weeks.
Hopefully Patriots fans enjoyed the glory days, because they’re not coming back for a while. This time around, the Patriots aren’t good enough to make that statement look bad.
Here are the rest of the winners and losers from Week 5 of the NFL season:
Jared Goff: Goff was a throw-in for a Detroit Lions on a blockbuster trade by the Los Angeles Rams. He balanced the salaries so the Lions could send Matthew Stafford to Los Angeles. Goff would be a bridge quarterback to whichever hot, young quarterback the Lions would draft.
While the Rams don’t have regrets over the trade, the most surprising development is that Goff has turned out to be pretty good. Goff had another strong game in a 42-24 win over the Carolina Panthers, throwing for 236 yards and three touchdowns, and did so without top receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown or rookie running back Jahmyr Gibbs, who were out with injuries.
The Lions are one of the NFL’s best teams, which was a possible outcome after they made a smart trade with Stafford. The surprising part is that it’s Goff who has led them to that level.
Gardner Minshew II and Zack Moss: Anyone tuning into the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday expecting to see a lot of Anthony Richardson and Jonathan Taylor got a surprise.
Richardson was knocked out of the game in the first half with a shoulder injury and the newly activated Taylor barely played. It was MInshew off the bench and Moss who led the Colts’ huge 23-16 AFC South win over the Tennessee Titans. Moss in particular was fantastic, rushing for 165 yards and two touchdowns.
The Minshew performance is bittersweet. It’s great for the Colts that they have a strong backup they can depend on, but they’d rather not see him play so much. Richardson has left three of the Colts’ five games with injuries. His shoulder injury looked bad. If Minshew has to play for a while the Colts can have confidence in him, but it comes with a lot of concerns over their prized rookie.
Desmond Ridder: Last week, there were plenty of questions about Ridder, and whether the Atlanta Falcons should bench him for Taylor Heinicke. If Ridder felt any of that pressure, he responded in a big way Sunday.
Ridder had the best game of his career and led the Falcons on a drive that ended with a field goal as time expired to beat the Houston Texans 21-19. Ridder threw for 329 yards and hit several clutch throws on the game-winning drive after the Texans took a late lead.
The Falcons are 3-2. They’re probably not good enough to beat the elite teams in the NFL, but they can stay in playoff contention beating on lesser opponents. Maybe Sunday was a sign that Ridder is taking a step forward, which would raise Atlanta’s ceiling.
Brian Daboll: There was a time, though New York Giants fans probably won’t admit it, that they thought Ben McAdoo was pretty good.
McAdoo was 11-5 his first season and took the Giants to the playoffs. Then it fell apart. Fast.
That brings us to Brian Daboll. The NFL’s Coach of the Year last season now oversees the NFL’s most uncompetitive team. The lack of effort from the Giants on Sunday was startling. A team that had a pick-6 on defense still got dominated 31-16 by the Miami Dolphins. That’s hard to do. But it happens when your defense is uninterested in tackling or covering anyone, and the offense has very little talent. The Giants gave up 524 yards.
The Giants are 1-4 and needed a historic comeback to get that one win. They look like a team that has given up already. That doesn’t reflect well on Daboll.
Lamar Jackson: The Baltimore Ravens were in a good spot on Sunday, but two Jackson mistakes unraveled a win.
The Ravens led the Pittsburgh Steelers 10-8 in the fourth quarter, at Pittsburgh’s 5-yard line, when Jackson threw a bad interception to Steelers rookie cornerback Joey Porter Jr. in the end zone. The Steelers finally got their offense going after that play, with Kenny Pickett hitting George Pickens for a go-ahead touchdown. The Ravens still had a chance to answer, but Jackson was sacked, fumbled and the Steelers recovered. Pittsburgh got a field goal, Jackson couldn’t put together a last-minute drive and the Ravens fell 17-10.
The Ravens are off to a good start this season, but have a couple of regrettable losses. Baltimore seemed to have a win on Sunday. The Steelers defense deserves credit or making some huge plays, and there were plenty of Ravens drops, but it also falls on Jackson for helping give a win away.
Buffalo Bills’ multiple losses: It’s not great for the Bills to already have two losses. They took their second in London against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday, falling 25-20. The offense didn’t show up until it was too late, and the defense allowed all of the Jaguars playmakers to go wild. For a team that wants to get to the Super Bowl, being 3-2 isn’t good if they want a shot at the AFC’s No. 1 seed.
What might be worse for the Bills was the injury to linebacker Matt Milano. Milano, a first-team All-Pro last season, went down with a knee injury in the first half and did not return. NFL Media reported he suffered a fractured leg and a season-ending knee injury. That’s a big reason Jacksonville piled up 474 yards. The Bills will be without one of their defensive stars for the rest of the season, and that’s another big blow to their Super Bowl hopes. It was not a good Sunday for the Bills.
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