Whatever glimmer of hope Patriots fans were holding onto on Sunday was squashed under the size 14 cleat of Maxx Crosby and the Raiders on the grass of Allegiant stadium Sunday afternoon.
The Patriots are playing an uninspired brand of football that has them in the cellar of the standings. The offense continues to struggle. Mac Jones is slowly losing his hold on the starting quarterback spot. The defense has folded in key spots. The season, for all intents and purposes, is over. It’s time to look to the future and figure out who on this roster is sticking around next year.
What went right for the Patriots vs. Raiders:
Offense Shows Life
17 points isn’t going to win you many games. But when your side of the ball has been responsible for a net total of -18 points over the last two weeks, being on the positive side, let alone double digits, is an improvement.
Ezekiel Elliott was a bright spot for the team on Sunday, showing some burst on a long play that was called back. He also showed he still has a nose for the end zone, with a two-yard touchdown run. Elliott should be in line for more carries going forward. He has consistently gained positive yards. He should continue to be a positive part of this offense as Rhamondre Stevenson continues to try to find his feet. The question now is, will a contender come calling about Zeke?
Kendrick Bourne showed he is a capable receiver and can be a go-to guy for Jones. Bourne had ten catches for 89 yards. On the Patriots’ fourth-quarter touchdown drive, Bourne was responsible for 52 yards on eight catches. He is a capable receiver who should get some attention as we near the trade deadline.
Defense Doing Enough
The Patriots’ defense realistically held the Raiders to 19 points. Another three of those points came after a Mac Jones interception, but that occurred at the Las Vegas 12-yard line and can be blamed on the offense for putting them in a bad position. Despite injuries to their top two players, the defense continues to be a tough group to go against.
The Pats also got their first takeaway in three games. With the offense struggling, getting them extra possessions can only help. The interception had a throwback element, as Jabrill Peppers laid the wood on All-Universe receiver Davante Adams, which popped the ball high into the air for Jahlani Taviai to corral. Headed into back-to-back weeks against explosive offenses, the Pats will need to get a takeaway streak going to stand a chance.
What went wrong for the Patriots vs. Raiders:
Offense Remains Offensive to Watch
The biggest positive for the Patriots on Sunday was that the offense scored 17 points. The most concerning thing you can say about the Pats this season is that 17 points is cause for celebration. The offense remains a disaster. Jones has regressed beyond belief. He had an egregious interception with a wide-open receiver well within reach. This team can’t overcome a negative play during an offensive series, let alone the rash of turnovers they’ve had this season.
Despite the poor play, the Pats had a chance to win it late. The final series was an encapsulation of this season for the Pats, though. Jones had a great ball down the left sideline that hit Davante Parker in the hands. After the game, when asked if it was a catchable ball, Parker responded, “I think so. I mean, fingertips, so I don’t know.”
Unfortunately, this is a catchable ball at all levels of the game. There are high school players with more accountability than what Parker has shown. Parker was given an extension by the Patriots this offseason; they could only be so lucky to have a team come asking about him this trade deadline.
That was the Pats’ best chance to make something of the final drive. After that, they had their signature implosion and were sacked for a safety to end the game. The Patriots are supposed to be a team that forces others to play left-handed and are at their best in situational football. Neither was the case on the final offensive play.
The Pats tried to block Maxx Crosby with Mike Gesicki and a right tackle making his third career start. The results were… predictable. The especially frustrating part was Jones could’ve dumped it off or thrown it away to play another down. Jones has shown no fear in tossing the ball into danger in other games this season, yet in a “gotta have it” moment, he decided to hold onto it instead. This team is baffling.
Defense Becoming a “Get-Right” Opportunity
A week after allowing the Saints to put up their season high in points, the Patriots allowed the Raiders to do the same. This came with a full half of football in which old friend Brian Hoyer was the quarterback for the opposing team. While the defense has done all it can do to help this team, it has had uncharacteristic moments where it looks incapable of stopping a runny nose. It won’t be long before the frustration of the defensive players begins to boil over, as they can only be asked to do so much.
Play of the Game
It didn’t officially count but it was the first time a Patriots player had found the end zone in 35 drives. There would be another two drives before the Pats got their first touchdown since Week 4 against the Jets, but it was good to see that the Patriots players weren’t allergic to the end zone and were actually capable of stepping foot into it without bursting into flames. Elliott showing the burst and open-field running ability was also a positive touch on yet another down day for the team.
It’s tank time in New England. The team is currently 1-5 with a home game against Buffalo and a road trip to Miami on tap. It’s extremely realistic that the Pats head to Germany at 1-7 and are selling at the deadline. The team needs to let the young guys play and start thinking about the future of this team.