Welcome to Season 12, Episode 10 of the Unconventional Preview, a severe but lighthearted, nostalgia-tinted take a look at the Patriots’ weekly matchup . . .
Possibly it went improper with Mac Jones a lot earlier than I’d realized.
Take into account this evaluation after one in all his uninspiring performances. It most likely sounds fairly acquainted, even repetitive:
“Jones . . . was sufficient. However abilities which can be alleged to be his strengths — accuracy, fast processing, seeing the sector — have typically been inadequacies this season. He missed an open Rhamondre Stevenson on a deep throw on the second possession, and there have been different events the place he didn’t see open secondary receivers.”
Ignoring the specifics of the receiver (Stephenson) that he missed on this occasion, that paragraph might have come from at the least a half-dozen postmortems this season. But it surely’s not from this season, and even final. I wrote that in 2021, Jones’s hopeful rookie season, when the Patriots fell to the Colts in Week 15, 27-17. Jones’s efficiency within the loss, during which the Patriots trailed, 20-0, appears like one thing of a harbinger of the demoralizing scenario they discover themselves in now. However who might have identified? The Patriots dropped to 9-5 with that defeat. They’re 11-19 since.
Possibly getting away to Germany, the place the Patriots will face the Colts Sunday (9:30 a.m. EST kickoff), will supply some form of respite. But it surely’s unlikely to yield the Patriots’ third victory of the season. Jones is coming off one other disheartening efficiency during which he missed open receivers — most notably Stevenson on an alley-oop of a throw — and didn’t see secondary choices breaking open.
And when Jones did make a genuinely spectacular throw, his receivers — most inauspiciously Jalen Reagor and JuJu Smith-Schuster — did not make a play. It was jarring to look at Commanders quarterback Sam Howell, a former fifth-round choose, look significantly extra expert than Jones, the No. 15 general choose in 2021.
The Colts are led by Gardner Minshew, an erratic however entertaining replacement-level quarterback who was thrust into the beginning job when rookie Anthony Richardson was sidelined with a shoulder damage. The Colts snapped a three-game shedding streak with a win over the hapless Panthers final Sunday, and scoring isn’t their situation — they common 25.8 factors per recreation, seventh within the league. If Minshew can curb his reckless tendencies, the Colts ought to have the sport in hand earlier than most of us have accomplished the Sunday morning Dunkin’ run.
Kick it off, Ryland, and let’s get this one began . . .
Three gamers to look at apart from the quarterbacks
Rhamondre Stevenson: Confused. Bewildered. Mystified. Nicely, don’t depart all of it to me. Go forward and add your personal synonym to the gathering concerning our puzzlement as to why Stevenson — who appeared as elusive and aggressive with the soccer in his fingers as he has all season — obtained simply 13 touches in opposition to the Commanders. Stevenson ran simply 9 instances, gaining a season-high 87 yards, together with a 64-yard landing that stands because the Patriots’ longest play from scrimmage this season. He added 42 yards on 4 receptions, which means he accounted for 129 yards, or roughly 10 yards per contact. It’s perplexing that on a day when he lastly appeared just like the explosive 2022 model of himself, he ceded carries to workmanlike Ezekiel Elliott and sometimes grew to become an afterthought whereas Jones threw 44 instances. Stevenson’s season excessive in carries is nineteen, within the Week 3 win over the Jets. He hasn’t had greater than 14 since. Final season, when he ran for 1,040 yards, he had two huge video games. A 25-carry, 161-yard efficiency in a Week 5 win over the Lions, and a 19-carry, 172-yard effort in that bizarre Week 15 loss to the Raiders. These had been his two highest try totals of the season. Give him that form of workload in opposition to the Colts’ Twenty fourth-ranked run protection (125.6 yards per recreation), and he’ll produce his greatest numbers of this disjointed season.
Jonathan Taylor: Patriots defenders who had been with the crew in 2021 have skilled first-hand what it’s like attempting to cease the Colts operating again when he’s at his greatest. In Week 15 that season, Taylor ran 29 instances for 170 yards, together with a game-breaking 67-yard landing simply earlier than the two-minute warning. The Colts prevailed, 27-17, ending a seven-game Patriots successful streak. Taylor was an offense unto himself that season, main the NFL in carries (332), dashing yards (1,811), and touchdowns (18), catching 40 passes for an additional 360 yards and a couple of touchdowns. Taylor hasn’t been that participant for some time. Accidents restricted him to 11 video games final 12 months (he completed with 861 yards), and this season obtained off to a weird begin, with a contract dispute almost resulting in a commerce to the Dolphins, earlier than he landed on injured reserve with a hamstring damage. Taylor is wholesome now, and his relationship with the Colts is seemingly mended. In early October, he signed a three-year, $42 million contract to stay in Indianapolis. The Colts, who rank tenth within the league with 123.3 yards dashing per recreation, obtained shocking manufacturing from Payments expatriate Zack Moss (615 dashing yards this season) in Taylor’s five-game absence. Taylor had simply 14 complete carries in his first two video games, however he ran for 95 yards in simply 12 makes an attempt in Week 8 in opposition to the Saints. He ran 18 instances for 47 yards — however contributed a TD reception — final week in opposition to the Panthers, and it actually doesn’t appear to be a job share at this level. Taylor performed 43 snaps to Moss’s 11. The Patriots’ run protection — which permits 100.8 yards per recreation, eleventh within the league — has been one of many crew’s few positives, with Christian Barmore wanting like a star within the making together with his latest disruptive play at sort out.
Kenny Moore: As a result of he by no means performed a regular-season recreation for the Patriots, his title gained’t be discovered on the franchise’s all-time roster, among the many eight Moores to have suited up for the crew when it counts. However the Colts’ ball-hawking cornerback was a Patriot briefly, from Could 2017 till he was lower eight days earlier than the season opener. The Colts instantly signed him, and it become a savvy resolution for them and a welcome break for Moore, who doesn’t look on his transient time in Foxborough fondly. Moore has began 82 video games in his seven seasons with the Colts, made the Professional Bowl in 2021, and was named the 82nd-best participant within the league within the 2022 top-100 ballot. He has 17 profession interceptions, together with three of the Colts’ 9 this season, and can face his first NFL employer Sunday coming off the very best recreation of his profession. Final Sunday within the 27-13 win at Carolina, Moore returned a pair of interceptions for touchdowns, one 66 yards and the opposite 49, additionally contributing two passes defensed and eight tackles. Moore, who’s prone to have the project on Demario Douglas, the Patriots’ solely harmful receiver, ought to have alternatives so as to add extra large performs to his spotlight reel. Jones has thrown six pick-6s in his profession, three this season.
Grievance of the week
The Patriots have had so many accidents at cornerback that they’re most likely yet another torn labrum away from checking in to see if Hank Poteat and Earthwind Moreland can be found. All of us miss watching Christian Gonzalez, and Marcus Jones would have been an asset in a number of methods. However the tipping level must be close to for Jack Jones and J.C. Jackson, doesn’t it? Jones and Jackson noticed delayed entry into final Sunday’s recreation, and it was later reported that each broke curfew on the crew lodge. Jones did what all unremorseful younger folks do once they suppose a punishment is unfair; he obtained passive aggressively cryptic on social media about it. Jackson, in the meantime, didn’t even make the journey to Germany. Their conduct is what occurs when a successful crew turns into a daily loser and its tradition erodes. Malcontents push again on self-discipline and construction and experience seeing what they will get away with. Each are respectable gamers. Each are unhealthy actors. Invoice Belichick ought to have introduced them each to Germany, then left them on the airport like discarded baggage when it was time to return residence.
We’ll save the numerous epic Brady-Manning duels for an additional time. Proper now, let’s return to almost a decade earlier than the Patriots’ dynasty started, when some soon-to-be-familiar names provided a fleeting second of pleasure in an in any other case misplaced season. In Week 11 of the 1992 season, the 0-9 Patriots traveled to Indianapolis to tackle Jeff George and the 4-5 Colts — they usually did so with out their coach. Dick McPherson was hospitalized for an intestinal ailment that required surgical procedure, leaving assistant Dante Scarnecchia in command of the crew. The Patriots additionally made a change at quarterback, turning to second-year passer Scott Zolak, who had made his NFL debut in aid the week earlier than. The Patriots trailed by 10 early within the fourth quarter regardless of Zolak landing passes to Ben Coates and Greg McMurtry — the latter a 65-yarder simply earlier than halftime. However a Chris Singleton pick-6 and two Charlie Baumann subject targets helped the Patriots rally to ship the sport to additional time. A 24-yard completion from Zolak to Jon Vaughn arrange Baumann’s successful 18-yarder in OT. Zolak, who had sat behind Hugh Millen and Mac Jones-prototype Tommy Hodson to start out the season, was named AFC Participant of the Week for his efforts. He led the Patriots to their second and final win over the season the next week, too. Somebody ought to actually do a The place Are They Now? on that man.
Prediction, or Bert Jones would have been an all-time nice if he’d stayed wholesome . . .
Let’s maintain this easy: The Colts have scored at the least 20 factors in each recreation this season, together with video games of 38 and 31, and two of 27. The Patriots have scored 20 factors on the nostril as soon as (within the Week 1 loss to the Eagles) and surpassed it as soon as (once they scored 29 of their outlier of a win over the Payments in Week 7). The Patriots are twenty sixth within the NFL in factors allowed, twenty seventh in yards allowed, and twenty ninth in factors scored. They don’t have the firepower to maintain up with even the mediocre Colts, and there’s no cause to imagine they’ve the self-discipline. The perfect hope for the Patriots, whose principal precedence must be draft place, is that they lose with dignity and with out dysfunction. Colts 32, Patriots 17.
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