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Takeaways from the Patriots’ Week 12 Loss at the Giants

Different week, same script for the Patriots. New England has fallen to 2-11 despite holding Saquon Barkley under 100 rushing yards, forcing a turnover, and recording six sacks on defense. Chad Ryland may have missed a potential game-tying field goal, but as Bill Belichick said after the game, this contest, like all of New England’s losses, was decided by sloppy ball security and missed opportunities.

After a week of speculation about who would start under center, Mac Jones and Bailey Zappe proved that the Patriots don’t have a quality starting option at quarterback. It’s a shame, given Jones’ promising rookie season, but the organization’s failure to support his development has turned the former Pro Bowl alternate into a shell of his former self. His decision-making and accuracy have eroded so significantly that it’s fair to question whether he’s irreparably broken.

Today’s loss is a net positive for the Patriots, who are playing for little more than draft position and pride. Still, after another week of sloppy quarterback play, it’s tough to feel anything but disappointment and disgust.

Here are my top takeaways from New England’s 10-7 defeat in New York.

Inactives

  • CB Alex Austin (healthy scratch)
  • RB JaMycal Hasty (healthy scratch)
  • OT Vederian Lowe (healthy scratch)
  • WR Jalen Reagor (healthy scratch)
  • DL Sam Roberts (healthy scratch)

Injuries

  • Demario Douglas (head)

Penalties

  1. 3rd & 2 at NE 34 (11:09 – 1st) M.Jones, Delay of Game, 5 yards, enforced at NE 34 – No Play.
  2. 4th & 7 at NYG 37 (5:06 – 1st) M.Jones, Delay of Game, 5 yards, enforced at NYG 37 – No Play.
  3. 4th & 5 at NYG 47 (11:03 – 2nd) K.White, Unnecessary Roughness, 8 yards, enforced at NE 16.

Mac Jones Benched After Turnover-Filled Half

Mac Jones was benched for the second consecutive game and the fourth time this season. Despite a game plan that asked very little of its quarterback, he recorded two interceptions, a fumble, three 3-and-outs, and a 27.8 passer rating. The offense didn’t look much better outside of Jones’ lowlights, showing a lack of cohesiveness on multiple plays.

Jones acknowledged this after the game, saying he wasn’t on the same page with the offense and understood why he was benched after failing to move the ball or score points. He also took responsibility for “bad quarterback play,” saying, “If the quarterback doesn’t play well, you’ve got no chance.”

Credit to Jones for facing the music every week, especially given the difficult position he’s been put in for a second consecutive year. But no abundance of pressure or lack of talent justifies egregious turnover-worthy plays every week.  Both of Jones’ giveaways could be seen a mile away as he locked in on his first read off of play action and forced a throw to Demario Douglas out of the backfield. He also didn’t put two hands on the football while taking a sack.

I hoped Jones would show enough in the second half of this season to prove he could compete for the starting job next season. But at this point, I don’t know how New England justifies entering 2024 without addressing quarterback through both free agency and the draft.

Bailey Zappe Fails to Impress in Relief Duty

No one expected Bailey Zappe to break out in this game, but his interception drove home how depleted New England is at signal-caller.

Despite being relegated to almost exclusively screen passes in the 2nd half, Zappe turned the ball over in ugly fashion on one of his only downfield throwing opportunities. While he did lead the offense’s only scoring drive, his contributions were little more than extended handoffs on underneath throws. Zappe also threw just four passes on the offense’s final possession, completing two for 9 yards.

Rhamondre Stevenson Puts the Offense on His Back (Again)

The Patriots’ resurgent rushing attack continues carrying the load for its inept passing game. Rhamondre Stevenson averaged 4.7 yards on 21 carries and scored the offense’s only touchdown. He put the team on his back during New England’s final possession, accounting for 21 of their 33 yards to set Chad Ryland up for a game-tying field goal.

Ezekiel Elliott had one of his most efficient rushing performances of the season, running for 5.1 yards per carry on nine totes.

They may not be explosive, but with the ground game being the only way for New England to move the ball consistently, I’d expect an even larger load for the backs moving forward.

Demario Douglas Carries Passing Offense Before Injury

Demario Douglas left today’s game after taking a brutal hit to the head and neck area on a punt return but told media after the game he was okay and didn’t suffer a concussion. This was a lucky break for the passing offense, which targeted the rookie a team-high nine times. Despite missing nearly all the 4th quarter, Douglas’ 49 yards made up nearly 1/3 of the offense’s yards through the air.

As admirable as the rookie’s performance was, his route-running struggles remain an issue. Mac Jones’ second interception was ugly, but Douglas also took forever to run his route and turn for the ball.

I don’t want to pick on Douglas, as he’s one of the offense’s few bright spots and is taking on an unfairly large role. That said, he has a long way to go before he can be relied on consistently.

Saquon Barkley Held In Check After Strong Opening Drive

Like their matchup against the Colts, stopping the run was priority A, B, and C for New England against a limited backup quarterback. And just like that game, the Patriots shut down one of the league’s premier rushers after struggling on their opening drive.

After ripping off a 14-yard run on his first carry, Saquon Barkley gained 32 yards on 11 carries and didn’t score a touchdown. Ja’Whaun Bentley credited in-game adjustments for their recent success, noting how they don’t always know what to expect from an offense early. Davon Godchaux was one of the unit’s standouts in another impressive performance, combining for four tackles.

On a rough day overall for the Patriots, the ground defense stood out as one of the few units to do its job.

Christian Barmroe and Jabrill Peppers Continue to Show Out

Christian Barmore and Jabrill Peppers have been co-MVPs for the Patriots this season, standing out weekly on an injury-plagued defense.

Peppers made an early impact against his old team, recovering a fumble on New York’s first possession and recording a sack.

He ended the day with three total tackles (one for loss), a sack, and a quarterback hit.

Barmore’s stat line was similar: He registered three tackles (one for loss), a sack, a quarterback hit, and a batted pass. The defensive tackle’s presence could be felt throughout the contest, generating quick pressures and helping to contain Saquon Barkley.

Pass Rush Bounces Back Against Leaky Giants Line

The Patriots’ pass rush has struggled mightily since losing Matthew Judon to a torn biceps, but the unit had its best performance in weeks in New York. They capitalized on a Giants line missing its top right tackle in Evan Neal and featuring two replacement-level players at guard.

Anfernee Jennings led the way with 1.5 sacks, Keion White, Ja’Whaun Bentley, Jabrill Peppers, and Christian Barmore recorded 1, and Deatrich Wise split a sack with Jennings.

It may have been low-hanging fruit, but it was nice to see New England generate some heat and make Tommy Devito uncomfortable in a group of mostly run-stoppers.

Taylor Kyles

Taylor Kyles is the lead NFL Analyst for CLNS Media covering players, schemes, and tendencies through a New England Patriots-centric lens.

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