The Patriots may have brought down a winnable game due to a variety of eminently avoidable blunders. But it wasn’t all bad. Let’s go over all of that in our Week 12 issue of the report card…
It wasn’t a perfect game from Mac Jones. But it was clearly his best season. Sure, he could have saved the time out by not slipping into a “sack” at the end of the first half. And yes, in a perfect world, he would have been able to pull the trigger on a pass to DeVante Parker in the face of pressure at the end of the game, resulting in a third ejection.
But it was a fine performance from the sophomore quarterback, who displayed his accuracy and ability to get in the field on Thanksgiving.
Jones went 28-for-39 for 382 yards (9.8 per attempt) and two scores. He went 4-for-6 on deep passes (20 yards or more behind the line of scrimmage) and had another shot on fourth down late in the game but Nelson Agulor seemed to stop getting in his way.
On passes intended 10 yards or more outside the line of scrimmage, Jones went 9-for-13 for 220 yards (16.9 per attempt) with two touchdowns. The ball was never put in harm’s way. Whereas the offense was a three-point and loss game at the end of the game, in this new Patriots world—one where this was one of the worst offenses in football during the off-season—this was progression. low bar. surely. But to steal the line, that’s what it is.
Running backwards: B+
Ramondry Stephenson had a third screen drop in the first quarter. But he was key in keeping this close, rushing for 5.1 yards per carry and catching nine passes for 76 yards. He was also put into the same sentence as Tom Brady and Lawrence Taylor during the telecast, though Bill Belichick later said that how he conveyed his conversation with the NBC crew wasn’t exactly how it went down.
However, Belichick compared Stephenson to James White shortly after Thanksgiving. Not quite like him. But the company you want to keep as a pass is still charged with significant responsibilities as a receiver and pass protector.
Damian Harris ran five times for 16 yards in this game before suffering an injury. How the Patriots use Stevenson without wearing him down going forward will be a great thing to track down.
Broad receiver: b
Nelson Agulor’s touchdown catch and subsequent deep kick reception that put the Patriots on the threshold of the goal line were two of the big midfield moments. They weren’t sure something on a large scale had troubles in the past, but to Agolur’s credit, they reeled and clung to the looming danger of communication.
Parker had one of the best catching moments of the season when he dotted his feet along the sideline at the end of the first half. He also fought through a contract for another explosive truck. When he’s been healthy lately, he’s been a productive option in the big play.
Jacoby Myers made a fine catch early on that forced him to miss time with a shoulder problem, but he’s back and has been practicing early this week. Kendrick Bourne got the small mix (three catches, 36 yards, most of which came on a long catch at the end of the game), but Tyquan Thornton wasn’t targeted and kept up the quiet performance.
Bourne’s five-yard loss on a reverse in the red zone wasn’t necessarily, but it was one of the team’s worst offensive plays of the game.
narrow end: b
Hunter Henry deserves credit for his three-section, 63-yard drive performance that saw him enter the end zone. It may have been his best game of the year as a receiver. But he, like Mack Jones, forced the Patriots to use timeouts when they didn’t have them when he didn’t go out of bounds in an effort to pick up extra yardage at the end of the first half.
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He also made, in the eyes of the officials, after touching the ground, almost touching the ground that he overturned. Meanwhile, Jono Smith has only played 16 snaps and appears to have problems as a run blocker.
Offensive line: B+
Trent Brown allowed a sack at the wrong time—third down, on the second-to-last drive of the game—but for the most part, this unit has been solid on pass protection.
Mac Jones got the ball out of his hands relatively quickly, for the most part. He threw six screens. Nine of his passes were targeted behind the line of scrimmage. Twenty-two of his passes were less than 10 yards behind the line of scrimmage.
But Yodni Kagusti (two pressures) was barely mentioned in the match. Cole Strange again ran into trouble (allowing four rushes), allowing a pressure that led to the last sack of the night on the Patriots’ final drive. But, the big picture, this group was better than it was in the previous month.
Special teams: F
A kickoff return for a touchdown cannot occur. Has Kyle Dugger been taken into custody? yes. But when players in the locker room suggest after the fact that a call shouldn’t have been called (or no call), I take their word for it. It shouldn’t come to that.
Then the penalty kick came to Pierre Strong. Curious decision just to rush the gambler there. Yes, it worked vs. Indy. But there were differences. The score was even. The Patriots had been moving the ball all game until their offensive move before Strong’s flag. The Patriots had three quick teams at that.
Patriots talk: The Patriots’ chance of collapse was crushed under an avalanche of mistakes Listen and Subscribe | Watch on YouTube
Was that enough to make Belichick think they had to block a kick to get some offense? It felt like an indictment of a crime by Belichick. Then, once he decided to rush the gambler, he entrusted two rookies (Strong and Demarcus Mitchell) to be the two most important people in the play.
Mitchell apparently didn’t draw blockers with him — like Brenden Schooler did on Jonathan Jones’s block vs. the Colts — and that changed Strong’s trajectory, in my opinion, leading to the collision. Shortly thereafter, Adam Thielen scored the winning goal.
This is where they lose the game.
Defensive line: A-
With Christian Barmore out, this unit isn’t loaded with rushers except for Deatrich Wise (two pressures vs. Minnesota). But she has had contributions from all fields in passing situations.
Lawrence Gay (three), Daniel Equal (two) and Davon Godchaux (one) all put some pressure on Kirk Cousins. They couldn’t reach it. But they finished in the running game. Dalvin Cook managed just 1.9 yards per carry. Great job by the big bodies up front to never let the Vikings get a running game (2.1 yards per total carry).
Matthew Godon emerged to be a force against the Vikings, who were below their left tackle, Christian Darisot. But with a combination of quick tries and quick hitting, Minnesota did well to knock Judon (two hits, one hurried) out of the game.
Josh O’Shea helps this score by netting the Patriots’ lone sack of the night. There was a moment in the coverage where this unit also appeared to malfunction. Jodon and Jahlani Tafai both went to cover Dalvin Cook deep in the red as Cook sprinted to the sidelines. Was this the intention? Meanwhile, Justin Jefferson sprinted across the field without an apparent double and ended up getting the first score of the game for the Thanksgiving hosts.
This unit gets the credit for reducing the opponent’s quick attack, but they needed more of this unit in their passing game.
Jefferson is a tough game. You can say he will. But does he have to come up with nine catches for 139 yards if he’s going to have his? The Patriots doubled it and beat him, which can’t be an acceptable score if you’re Bill Belichick.
The secondary appeared late to double it on its first down. Later he sprinted across an arc for an explosive gain. Later, he made a 37-yard catch when Devin McCourty delayed reaching him for a hit.
Add three 15-yard penalties (two in the face mask on Jonathan Jones, one on Miles Bryant)… add two fallen defenders (Kyle Dogger on a TJ Hawkinson touchdown; Miles Bryant on a 25-yard Jalen Regor grab)… and you should That class reside where it is.
Jones’ selection of Kirk Cousins - on the expertly played Cover 1 “Cross” call – prevented him from falling further.
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