It's hard to win without talent in today's NFL. And it's becoming more and more apparent that the New England Patriots are talent-deficient.
The Patriots lost 21-17 to the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday at Allegiant Stadium to fall to 1-5 on the season, their worst stretch to begin a campaign since 1995. While New England finally broke its 12-quarter touchdown drought with a third-quarter TD, the offense still didn't do enough to win.
Quarterback Mac Jones delivered another uninspiring performance -- 24 for 33 for 200 yards with zero touchdowns and an interception -- while wide receiver DeVante Parker had a brutal drop on the Patriots' final drive of the game that led to Raiders defensive end Maxx Crosby sacking Jones in his own end zone for the game-sealing safety.
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The Patriots' failed final drive (which was also hamstrung by a pair of penalties) was a microcosm of everything that's plagued Bill Belichick's team amid its historically poor start to the season.
"It's a combination of situational football, penalties, turnovers, and then just a roster where you have glaring limitations that are going to prevent you from winning the game against high-tier football teams," our Patriots Insider Tom E. Curran said on NBC Sports Boston's Patriots Postgame Live after the loss.
Curran was particularly critical of how New England has constructed its roster, pointing out that the three of the team's most glaring weaknesses are at the three most important offensive positions in today's NFL.
"If you look at that thing that says, 'In case of emergency, break glass,' there's nothing in there. So you can't move on from Mac," Curran said. "When we go back to roster (building), your quarterback has extreme limitations in the way he plays the game, so you have to surround him with people who will do certain things, and they couldn't.
"You have a quarterback with limitations, you have your tackle spots, which are glaring errors -- and that doesn't excuse Trent Brown, who had an illegal man-down-field penalty on the first drive -- and then your 'high-end' wide receivers (not delivering). The NFL in 2023 is built around, offensively, quarterback, wide receiver and tackle, and you have deficiencies at all of them through poor roster-building."
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To Curran's point, Jones has been one of the worst QBs in the NFL this season, and his backup, Bailey Zappe, is so ineffective that the Patriots made undrafted rookie Malik Cunningham -- who was a quarterback in college but had been working as a wide receiver in practices -- their primary backup Sunday.
Jones also has one of the NFL's worst supporting casts, with the ineffective Parker and the oft-injured JuJu Smith-Schuster -- both signed in free agency within the last two seasons -- as two of his top receivers. To top it all off, Jones has been one of the league's most pressured QBs this season thanks to a patchwork offensive line relying on two late-round rookies (Sidy Sow and Atonio Mafi) and a backup-level tackle acquired just before the season (Vederian Lowe).
If you ask Curran, the blame lies with both Belichick the head coach and Belichick the de facto general manager.
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"I don't think the talent level is there," Curran said. "I think the coaching staff is too small and not as good as it was when Ted Johnson was roaming the field. They just don't have as good and experienced a coaching staff, the personnel doesn't bring in the right players, it seems, and Bill is in charge of the personnel department.
"... To me, Bill Belichick is not the coach he was, and you see it exhibited week in and week out by a team that's completely impotent on offense, starts slowly, commits penalties, is situationally poor, and in the crunch-time moments when you need a play to be made, your best players ... can't make the play for you."
Check out the Patriots Postgame Live video below for more reaction from Curran, Michael Holley, Ted Johnson and Amina Smith.