It feels like we’ve entered the end times.
The Patriots are 2-7. They’ll need to be undefeated in their final eight to have a realistic shot at the postseason. They’ll need to go 7-1 to finish over .500.
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November and December used to be when the Patriots would finish with a flourish. That hasn’t happened in several years. Projections indicate there will be no postseason for the third time in four seasons.
Robert Kraft talked in March of 2022 about being thirsty for playoff wins, saying, “It bothers me that we haven’t been able to win a playoff game in the last three years."
PLAYOFFS??? YOU’RE TALKING ‘BOUT PLAYOFFS???? YOU KIDDING ME?
Bill Belichick’s once-proud Patriots entered the season with reasonably high hopes for success. They’ve been ground down to silt. They are way worse than last year.
When there are multiple options for “worst game of the season” (38-3 loss to the Cowboys, 34-0 to the Saints, 21-17 to the Raiders or 20-17 to the Commanders) you know things are sideways.
The man nicknamed “Doom” back when he was a young curmudgeon with the '80s Giants finds himself surrounded by it 40 years later.
The players aren’t good enough. The offense is unwatchable. The first-round quarterback’s regressed. The backup situation behind Mac Jones is laughably disorganized. The free agent signings (JuJu Smith-Schuster, Riley Reiff, Calvin Anderson) have been unmitigated disasters. The trades (DeVante Parker, J.C. Jackson) have been too. The second-round wideout from 2022 (Tyquan Thornton) looked like he was auditioning for Riverdance at the top of one third-down route. Meanwhile, Jakobi Meyers is killing it for the Raiders.
Speaking of the Raiders, they won 30-6 on Sunday over Brian Daboll’s Giants, (They’re the only team in the league scoring less than the Patriots; the Raiders under Josh McDaniels were third-worst entering Sunday). Amazing to see what teams are capable of when the workplace dynamics change.
The Patriots lost Sunday to a team that raised the white flag on 2023 by trading away two of its best defenders for draft picks. Speculation that the Commanders could trade for Belichick was rampant last week. After Sunday, do you imagine Washington owner Josh Harris is looking at Belichick and saying “I need that guy running my team"?
MORE PATRIOTS COVERAGE
The Patriots were in it at the end because they capitalized on a fumble at the Commanders 25 and got a 64-yard run from Rhamondre Stevenson. There were no sustained drives. Eight of their 11 drives were five plays or less. The three drives that were longer were: 11 for 45 yards (ended on downs), 12 for 51 yards (field goal), 9 for 50 (game-ending pick).
The Patriots have scored more than 20 points once in nine games.
Grumbling and dysfunction appears to be growing. Meanwhile, Jones isn’t going down without a passive-aggressive fight. When asked about throwing into tight windows and having so few explosive plays, Jones began saying there are no excuses.
Then he segued to saying, "That’s a great point, but at the same time we’re always going to focus on us and what we can do better and the things we need to improve, what I need to improve and all that stuff. But, yeah, that’s a good question.”
That response isn’t exactly torn from a “What Great Leaders Should Say” handbook. On the other hand, one wonders if Jones is just saying, “screw it.” Realizing he’s never going to be embraced here, he might as well call it as he sees it.
The sun seems to be setting on Jones' time as a Patriot as well. And while he should shoulder his share of the blame for the “trying to make a play” miscues that have dotted this season and the fact that he has three levels of speed on his throws -- slow, slower and slowest -- how many times does the kid have to hit players in the hands and be let down?
The Patriots will enter the offseason with a top 10 pick (maybe top five at this rate) and $100 million in cap space with a need at quarterback. The season ends January 7. Two months. Ownership has to start deciding now who will be making decisions about the course this team charts for the rest of the decade.
In the immediate future, the Patriots will board a plane for Germany and try to put on a happy face in Frankfurt. These occasions used to be ripe with opportunity for the team to expand the brand and curry favor with international fans. Not this time. The Colts (a team that hasn’t scored fewer than 20 points all season) are the opponent and they’re 4-5. Indy is favored.
A loss in Europe would mean 2-8 and a long flight home into the bye week. After the bye, it’s a visit to the Giants. Where Doom was born.