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One of the hallmark traits of Bill Belichick-coached teams during their decades-long domination of the AFC was they got better late in the season. The New England Patriots typically played their best football in December, January and often, February.
But here we are in December of 2022 and the Patriots look arguably worse now than they did earlier this season.
The Patriots have lost three of their past four games, with two of those losses coming in December.
And Sunday’s 30-24 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders was the team’s low point — with mistakes on offense, defense and special teams.
So, not very Belichickian.
“Collectively made too many mistakes,” Belichick said, summing up the performance.
Indeed, Belichick used the word “mistake” no less than 10 times during his press conference following the game. And that continued Monday morning during his day-after meeting with reporters.
“I’ve never coached in a game where you weren’t coaching and making corrections of mistakes after the game,” Belichick said Monday. “On all levels, playing, coaching, everything, decision-making, overall strategy, everything. That’s a part of every game, every review. I’ve never coached in a game where you didn’t have that.”
Belichick’s Patriots Struggling Late In Season
But rarely — if ever — have the Patriots made so many mistakes across the board so late in the season. Because that’s the time this franchise has traditionally under Belichick been playing at its best.
Yet this game offered one mistake after another.
Everyone is focused on the game-deciding lateral that Raiders defensive end Chandler Jones “intercepted” (it was ruled a fumble recovery) and returned 48 yards for the walk-off victory.
That was a huge mistake in that the play called was a draw to running back Rhamondre Stevenson. Except Stevenson lost his mind and began a series of laterals that end up with Jakobi Meyers throwing the ball to Jones.
“Obviously we don’t want the result we had on that play,” Belichick said. “Just leave it at that.”
Yeah, no kidding. The question is: Were the players not coached up to understand the situation before they got on the field for that last series?
“I’m supposed to know the situation,” Stevenson said. “I’m supposed to know how much time is on the clock in critical situations and I failed to do that today.”
That wasn’t the start and finish of New England mistakes.
The Patriots had a punt blocked in the second quarter that gave the Raiders the ball at New England’s 20 yard and led to a touchdown. On that play, the ball was snapped before all of New England’s blockers seemed ready.
“I don’t have anything to add,” Belichick said of that play Monday.
The New England passing game was a mess. Quarterback Mac Jones completed only 13 of 31 passes for a paltry 112 yards.
“We have to do a better job throwing the ball,” Belichick said. “In other games our completion percentage has been different than that. That’s not the standard.”
The standard for Patriots football in December was set years ago and maintained for a very long time. What we’re seeing this December is something entirely different.
Real Reason Cowboys Got Whipped
After the Cowboys lost in overtime to the Jacksonville Jagaurs the finger pointing and theories for the loss began.
There was blame on quarterback Dak Prescott for throwing an interception on the game’s final play — which Rayshawn Jenkins returned for a walkoff touchdown in overtime.
I don’t buy that one. Prescott threw a perfect pass in the hands of an open receiver who had the ball bounce into the air.
That wasn’t a Dak stinks thing.
No, the reasons the Cowboys got beat are twofold: Firstly, the Jaguars are a much improved and improving team with a blossoming star quarterback in Trevor Lawrence.
Secondly, the Jaguars lack the reputation of being a team on the rise and instead are sometimes treated as a doormat.
Cowboys Looked Away From Prize
And with the Dallas schedule offering a Christmas eve matchup with the Philadelphia Eagles potentially for the NFC East crown, I believe the Cowboys simply let up and lost focus against the Jaguars when they took a 21-7 lead.
So when the Jaguars fought back, like good teams do, the surprised Cowboys could not regain their footing.
I don’t know if Dallas players were already looking ahead. Micah Parsons discussing Jalen Hurts the week he’s playing Lawrence suggests that’s the case. And the team played, at least on defense, like they had other business on their mind.
Dallas coach Mike McCarthy dismisses that idea.
“You don’t overlook any game,” McCarthy said. “When we have conversations about ‘don’t take the cheese’ it’s really for the younger players and just to stay focused based on the questions they have to answer that will be different than they normally answer.”
The Jacksonville loss probably cost the Cowboys the NFC East. They could have gone to Philly on Saturday two games back with a chance to close the gap so much as to make the last two weeks important. Now Dallas is three games out of first with three games to play.
Tom Brady Losing It? Not Likely
Any time a 45-year-old NFL player has a bad day the first question to ask is, “Is he losing it?”
So that’s questions about Tom Brady now. Because he’s had a rough couple of week, including a bad outing against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday.
Brady threw for 312 yards. He threw 3 TD passes.
But he had four turnovers — two interceptions and two fumbles.
“The two fumbles were my fault. It was uncharacteristic,” Brady said. “One of the interceptions was just a terrible throw. The other one, I got hit, the guy was laying on the ground and the ball landed in his arms.”
And here’s my guess: Brady isn’t starting to show decline.
He simply had a rough day. He has been, and remains, the reason people keep expecting the Buccaneers, a chronically flawed team, to get to the playoffs. Brady’s the reason people still fear the Bucs when they’re down only one score with just a couple of minutes to play.
It’s not the running game. Not the defense. Nor the coaching.
Brady makes the Bucs relevant and still dangerous.
Tom Brady Is Reason Bucs Have Chance
Brady has thrown four times in the past two weeks. Yeah, bad. But he threw only three picks in the first 12 games, which is great.
So what does that mean?
Do a quick rundown of the NFL. I count 15 teams that would take Brady right now because he’s better than the quarterback they currently have.
Brady is a free agent after the season and, yes, the Buccaneers want him back for 2023. Another signal he’s not declining.