December 4, 2023


Ethical victories? At all times welcome. Precise ones simply intervene with the mandatory bottoming-out earlier than they will rise once more.

The reality is, the Patriots must hold shedding to allow them to have the perfect shot at discovering a superior successor to Mac Jones.

Welcome to Season 12, Episode 9 of the Unconventional Preview, a severe but lighthearted, nostalgia-tinted have a look at the Patriots’ weekly matchup . . .

No less than the Patriots got here away from their disheartening 31-17 loss to the Dolphins final week with one thing of worth: Full readability, not solely on who they’re, however how they need to proceed.

The Patriots, coming off a shocking 29-25 victory over Josh Allen and the Payments in Week 7, entered their rematch with the Dolphins hopeful a nook had been turned. As an alternative, Miami’s abundance of high-end talent gamers step by step revealed the Patriots as missing in too many areas to beat group for the second straight week. The win over the Payments was a mirage, and the Patriots have been uncovered as the identical talent-thin group they have been earlier than that victory.

The perfect hope for the Patriots’ future is to lose, lose once more, after which lose some extra as this schedule performs out. Wins are detriments to what’s greatest in the long term. How should they proceed? By taking part in onerous, and developing simply quick.

They’re not going to finish this season with simply two wins. I do know that. The protection is competent. Invoice Belichick nonetheless can coach. There will probably be one other unexpectedly sharp efficiency in opposition to a top quality opponent. And there are sufficient opponents of modest-to-low high quality — corresponding to Sunday’s foe, the Commanders, who’ve misplaced 5 of 6 and traded go rushers Chase Younger and Montez Sweat on Tuesday — that one other win or two will come the Patriots’ means, regardless of what’s greatest.

Ethical victories? At all times welcome. Precise ones simply intervene with the mandatory bottoming-out earlier than they will rise once more. This positive is a bizarre place for the Patriots to be. Nevertheless it’s the truth. Time to embrace it, Invoice.

Kick it off, Ryland, and let’s get this one began . . .

Three gamers to look at apart from the quarterbacks

Christian Barmore: When discussing the gamers on this Patriots’ roster who must be long-term keepers, Barmore’s title must be within the dialogue. The third-year defensive deal with from Alabama was pegged as a breakthrough participant final yr, however accidents and inconsistency left a small cloud of disappointment over his sophomore season.

That breakthrough, it seems, was delayed till this yr, and significantly over the previous three weeks, when he’s performed his greatest stretch as a Patriot. Barmore has sacks in again to again weeks, and over three video games in opposition to Las Vegas, Buffalo, and Miami, he has been a disruptive drive whereas registering 13 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, 2 passes defensed, 2 quarterback hits, and the pair of sacks.

Barmore and colleagues Lawrence Man, Davon Godchaux, and the quickly enhancing Keion White have to be stout in opposition to the Commanders’ working sport. Even when linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley, the Patriots’ second-leading tackler (he has 55 to Kyle Dugger’s 58), is sidelined with a hamstring harm, that shouldn’t be an issue in opposition to Brian Robinson and a Washington working sport ranked twenty sixth within the league (85.9 yards per sport). The Patriots rank ninth in run protection (97.9 yards per sport), and did an honest job for a lot of the sport in opposition to the Dolphins’ explosive Raheem Mostert final week.

Barmore and associates may have some actual enjoyable when the Commanders go. Second-year quarterback Sam Howell has been sacked 41 instances in seven video games. Surprisingly, the Eagles received to him simply as soon as final week of their 38-31 win, however there must be sufficient leaks within the Commanders’ line to permit Barmore to gather a minimum of one sack for the third straight sport, which might formally depend as a streak.

Demario Douglas: Numerous stats will affirm the ineptitude of the Patriots’ passing sport, however this one, talked about throughout the broadcast final Sunday summarized it higher than most: JuJu Smith-Schuster’s 3-yard landing reception with 8:30 left within the sport was the primary TD catch by a Patriots receiver apart from Kendrick Bourne all season.

To place it one other means, the Patriots have performed eight video games, and Shockmain Davis, Bam Childress, and Stephen Starring have as many landing receptions for the 2023 Patriots as DeVante Parker, Tyquan Thornton, and Douglas do. Appropriate, that might be zero.

With the likable and energetic Bourne (37 receptions, 406 yards, 4 TDs) out for the season with a torn ACL, somebody has to select up the slack for the Patriots’ greatest and most well-rounded receiver.

Whereas Kayshon Boutte seems in line to make his first look since Week 1, the perfect guess to really produce on Sunday is the short and nimble Douglas, who’s second amongst receivers in receptions (19) and yards (222). He has the longest reception by any Patriot not named Pharaoh Brown this season, a 42-yarder in opposition to the Cowboys in Week 4.

Towards a Commanders go protection that ranks twenty ninth (256.8 yards per sport), Douglas has an opportunity to have the perfect sport of his younger profession.

Terry McLaurin: There’s loads of competitors when trying to find out which of Belichick’s draft and personnel strikes over the previous few seasons have hindered the franchise essentially the most.

However I do know which one comes instantly to thoughts, each single time: the choice to take Arizona State large receiver N’Keal Harry with the No. 32 decide in 2019. Harry drew heady comparisons to Anquan Boldin for his alleged capability to make contested catches — one thing Belichick inexplicably appears to worth greater than the flexibility to get open. In 33 video games over three seasons with the Patriots, Harry had 57 catches for 598 yards and 4 touchdowns. He’s now with the Vikings, and truthfully, they’d most likely be higher off rostering 43-year-old Anquan Boldin.

Patriots followers require no reminder of this, however the resolution to take Harry was particularly egregious as a result of the likes of A.J. Brown, Deebo Samuel, and DK Metcalf have been nonetheless out there. So, too, was McLaurin, who went to Washington within the third spherical at decide No. 76 and instantly grew to become a dependable weapon. McLaurin — who already has 341 catches for 4,776 yards and 23 touchdowns in his profession, is having a sometimes glorious season. He leads the dependable crop of Commanders receivers — which additionally contains Curtis Samuel (35-332-2) and Jahan Dotson (30-291-2) — with a 42-495-2 stat line of his personal. Belichick had excessive reward for McLaurin this previous week, noting that he’s a “very explosive participant, threatens all three ranges of the protection, excellent after the catch.” Too unhealthy he didn’t admire these attributes sufficient to draft him 4 years in the past.

Barmore has sacks in back to back weeks, and over three games against Las Vegas, Buffalo, and Miami, he has been a disruptive force while registering 13 tackles, 3 tackles for losses, 2 passes defensed, 2 quarterback hits, and the pair of sacks.
Barmore has sacks in again to again weeks, and over three video games in opposition to Las Vegas, Buffalo, and Miami, he has been a disruptive drive whereas registering 13 tackles, 3 tackles for losses, 2 passes defensed, 2 quarterback hits, and the pair of sacks. MATTHEW J. LEE/GLOBE STAFF

Grievance of the week

Should admit, I don’t get why anybody thinks it’s a smart thought for deposed Raiders coach Josh McDaniels to return to the Patriots proper now in any capability the place he may truly assist. McDaniels is a two-time bust as a head coach — he was 3-0 in opposition to Belichick and 17-33 in opposition to everybody else throughout his stints in Denver and Las Vegas — however he’s a confirmed asset as an assistant. Because the Patriots’ offensive coordinator in 2021, he labored with Mac Jones by a rookie season promising sufficient that he was picked as a Professional Bowl substitute. (Hey, that counts for one thing. Not rather a lot, however one thing.)

The notion is that McDaniels may assist salvage Jones, to which I say two issues: no, he can’t, and why would you need him to at this level? Offensive coordinator Invoice O’Brien has not been the issue. I can consider a number of situations the place he drew up intelligent performs, solely to have the shortage of cohesion and expertise among the many gamers result in failure, most lately with Jones’s terrible interception to the Dolphins’ Jalen Ramsey final Sunday. Jones was damaged final season by the pompous and inept Matt Patricia, and it’s clear now that he’s past restore.

And I’m unsure what the profit in repairing him now can be to the Patriots anyway. They should resolve by Might 2024 whether or not to select up Jones’s fifth-year possibility, which might price within the $23 million-$30 million vary for one yr. His weaknesses (throwing on the transfer, arm power) have remained weaknesses, and plenty of of his perceived strengths (accuracy, decision-making) popping out of Alabama have turn into weaknesses. The Patriots aren’t going to pay him, they usually don’t want to repair him. They should hold shedding to allow them to have the perfect shot at discovering a superior successor.

The flashback

The Patriots and Commanders have met simply 11 instances, with Washington profitable six however New England taking the final 4. Amongst these Patriots victories was maybe essentially the most ruthless of the dynasty period, a 52-7 throttling in Week 8 of the 2007 season. The Patriots scored the primary 52 factors, racked up a franchise-record 34 first downs, and Tom Brady threw three landing passes, together with a 2-yarder to Wes Welker with 9:06 to play that put New England forward by a 45-0 margin. (Brady’s three TD passes gave him 29 on the season — a profession excessive — by simply eight video games.) The margin of victory was tied for the fourth largest in Patriots historical past — the 59-0 clobbering of the Titans in snowy circumstances in October 2009 is the standard-bearer — however it may need been their meanest efficiency. The Patriots had relished crushing opponents after the revelation of “Spygate.” After this one was over, Belichick was requested postgame why he went for it on fourth down on the drive that ultimately led to the Welker landing, the implication being that he ran up the rating on Washington’s three-time Tremendous Bowl-winning coach, Joe Gibbs. Belichick was having none of it. “What did you need us to do, kick a area objective?” he stated.

Prediction, or how on earth did Mark Moseley, a kicker, win NFL MVP in 1982? . . .

Effective, I would as nicely hold predicting this till it proves proper. So right here goes: That is the week that the Patriots get Rhamondre Stevenson going. No, actually. That is the week. Although his last stats have been modest (10 carries, 39 yards) in opposition to the Dolphins final week, he confirmed flashes of his 2022 type, breaking an assortment of tackles. Towards a Commanders run protection that permits 117.4 yards per sport, twenty first within the league, Stevenson will surpass 100 yards for the primary time since Week 15 in opposition to the Raiders final season. In the meantime, the Patriots protection will dupe Howell — who can’t resist trying high-risk throws — into a vital mistake or two. That will probably be sufficient to win a sport that they actually shouldn’t. Patriots 20, Commanders 19.