The 2021 New England Patriots season has come to an uncerimonious and outright embarrassing end. The Bills out gained the Pats in the game 482-305, however, 300 of their 482 came in the first half alone, which included a four play 89 yard touchdown drive that took roughly 90 seconds. It was an all around horrible night for the Patriots defense as Josh Allen and company simply had their way with New England's defense as the Bills possessed the ball seven times, all going for touchdowns. The eighth and final possession for Buffalo were kneel downs that for the sake of Patriot fans that not only ended an outright ugly beatdown, but put an end to what certainly was an interesting season.
Mac Jones was by far the best rookie QB in his draft class. He lead all rookies in just about every statistical category possible. Trevor Lawrence's season was an absolute train wreck, but look who his coach was for the first 14 weeks of the season. Zach Wilson plays for the Jets, that shouldn't need any explaining, Justin Fields didn't play terribly, except he had a brain dead head coach. Can't say much of Trey lance right now due to the fact that Jimmy G decided to actually stay healthy for once.
Back to Mac, he is the first Rookie QB in Patriots team history to lead the team to the playoffs in his first professional season. Mac Jones was the first QB to start a playoff game for the Patriots not named Tom Brady when now Patriots radio color commentator Scott Zolak started a playoff game back in 1998 when the Patriots were beaten by the Jacksonville Jaguars. Since 2000, the Patriots have qualified for the postseason 17 times, playing in 42 games (that's two in a half seasons of football), while 41 of those were started by some dude named Tom Brady.
Fair to say that Jones has huge shoes to fill in New England has he has to follow up 18 of 20 years of just pure brilliance by Brady, but had to improve after what as an unsettling 7-9 season under Cam Newton from 2020. First off, it wasn't going to be that hard to outplay Newton and take the starting job, it was Cam's job to lose in the first place and he sure lost it. Plus the only other competition was Brian Hoyer and Jarrett Stidham. Again, there was no actual competition for the starting job.
Let's review the season, after a tumultuous 2-4 start, the Patriots looked to be completely dead in the water after a heartbreaking 35-29 OT loss to the Dallas Cowboys. After catching some breaks with other teams battling over COVID and injuries, it opened the door for the Patriots to take advantage of the rest of the pack, being hurt, and they did take their chance. The defense looked and played great, the offense was able to move the ball, however there was one constant, Mac Jones never had a single game in which he took absolute complete control and went off. The Patriots were easing him into the NFL on the fly, while it looked to be a good thing, after the Week 13 Monday Night Football win against the Bills where Mac Jones only threw the ball a whopping three times, it had to be clear that the Patriots never had the intention of letting Mac Jones try and take over a game.
After the bye week where Mac Jones stated that the team didn't have a great week of practice leading up to the Week 15 Saturday Night tilt against the Colts, to was proven when the Patriots fell behind early and never could completely crawl their way back in, made it 20-17 at one point but needed up falling 27-17. Since then the Patriots got completely trampled by the Bills at Gillette Stadium the following week where the Bills didn't punt the ball once and Josh Allen completely carved up the Patriots like a post Christmas feast. We won't talk about week 17 due to the fact that they played Jacksonville and well the Jags are and have always been a dysfunctional organization. Then Week 18 comes along a chance to steal the AFC East division back and host a playoff game, and the Pats come out of gates, falling behind Miami 17-0 where Tua Tagovailoa did exactly what Josh Allen did just a couple weeks prior, ran through the Pats defense like it was nothing.
The writing was on the wall for the patriots after they practically limped into the playoffs, this team was not ready to take the next step and there have been multiple factors to that:
1) Mac Jones was severely limited in his rookie season when it came to the play calling and wasn't truly given the chance to show that he could actually lead a strong touchdown drive or convert a fourth and short opportunity.
2) The defense that carried this team for much or the season, was nowhere to be found at any point in the final weeks, including the Wild Card blowout loss to Buffalo.
3) The play calling by Josh McDaniels has been the same conservative play calling that we have been seeing since the 2018 season, when Brady was still the starting quarterback for this club. McDaniels will get a head coaching job but right now, his time in New England should be reaching the end soon.
4) For the first time since he first arrived in New England to the Patriots Head Coach, Bill Belichick didn't seem to be as aggressive on both offense and defense as he normally is, especially when the pats were rattling off division titles and Super Bowl trips/victories. Belichick didn't seem to completely trust his young QB and probably preferred to have a veteran QB to leas the offense.
Listen a 10-7 season with a playoff appearance is nothing to sneeze at as the Patriots were a much better team than they were a year ago, however many issues still remain that must be addressed in the offseason and it really should start at the coaching staff level. Maybe getting an actual defensive coordinator would be a good start, and getting a new special teams coach would be a good option as well as the this team was extremely undisciplined and inconsistent on special teams towards the end of year. After that we visit the roster as there will be some turnover on the defense, and this defense should start to get younger, not older.
Overall, it was a successful season for the Patriots and it is a building block for the future. Mac Jones has a chance to blossom into a top rated Quarterback in this league. Remember, Rome wasn't built in a day, and neither will the next Patriots team that will compete for a Super Bowl year in and year out like we got accustomed to for 20 years. Things take time and there's plenty of time for Jones, however the clock is ticking for Bill Belichick.
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