Welcome to the Unconventional Review, a direct response to highlights, stats and storylines from the Patriots’ most recent game. . .
Matthew Slater on Patriots struggles: ‘It has nothing to do with coach Belichick’
Bill Belichick benched Mac Jones again. Should it be permanent? Plus other final thoughts
By dispassionate, objective, analytical measures, Mac Jones’ performance is in the Patriots’ 10-6 loss to the Colts Sunday wasn’t close to the worst quarterback game in franchise history.
With the research assistance of pro-football-reference.com and the great Stathead feature, the worst passing performance in Patriots history – based on lowest quarterback rating, with five completed passes as a baseline – was by Don Trull in a 44-16 loss to the Bills on December 9 1967.
He went 5-of-20 for 57 yards and three interceptions, for a 0.0 QB rating, which I think Shaughnessy would call the Full Blutarsky. Poor Don Trull was replaced by Babe Parilli, who went 2 for 9 for 67 yards, a touchdown and three picks.
There have been many other brutal performances from quarterbacks that are both obscure and legendary in Patriots lore. Jeff Carlson – who was basically the 1992 version of Bailey Zappe – went 7 for 20 for 67 yards and two interceptions in a 20-10 loss to the Bengals on December 20 of that lost season, for a 4.2 QB rating. Jim Plunkett had five of the 25 worst games in terms of quarterback rating in Patriots history, and Steve Grogan had four. Drew Bledsoe had an 18.2 rating after throwing four interceptions and no touchdowns in a November 1994 loss to the Browns, who had a very well-known coach.
Bad games happen to every quarterback, even football immortals. Your guess on Tom Brady’s worst is probably correct: They Hate Their Coach’s season-opening 31-0 loss to the Bills in 2003, when he threw four picks without a TD pass. From what I understand, he avenged it and then some.
Now, with the requisite history and context aside. . . and by all emotional, subjective, unscientific standards. . . Jones’ performance on Sunday was the worst I’ve ever seen from a Patriots quarterback. His numbers in the first half (10 of 11, 105 yards) were fine, although padded by a 30-yard dump to Demario Douglas when they should have attempted a Hail Mary on the final play. But he was so stunningly bad in the second half — in execution and decision-making — that it felt like we were watching the unofficial end of his Patriots career.
Jones made three truly inexcusable plays: a no-look fling to Rhamondre Stevenson on third-and-3 at the Colts’ 17 midway through the third quarter, which led to offensive coordinator Bill “Teapot” O’Brien encountering him on the sideline ; a third-and-5 throw to Hunter Henry that dropped Colts defensive back Julian Blackmon in the end zone; and – in what had to be the worst throw of his Patriots career, no exaggeration – a soft throw straight to Blackmon, with Mike Gesicki stepping behind him and wide open in the end zone.
He sat on the bench for Zappe for the final ride. Jones’ final numbers — 15 for 20, 170 yards, one pick, 79.2 rating — weren’t terrible. But the performance was. Not long ago, it seemed like he was the Patriots’ quarterback, a modern-day Chad Pennington. Now? Jones makes me appreciate the Tony Eason years. His best football life could be a rebuilding project for a team that has a much better starter than him. Turn off the lights, because the party is over for him here.
Some further thoughts, after immediate review. . .
Three players worth watching
Players featured in the unconventional preview: Jonathan Taylor, Rhamondre Stevenson, Kenny Moore.
Rhamundre Stevenson: It’s time to officially declare him back to his 2022 form. After running for 87 yards – including a 64-yard touchdown burst – on just nine carries in last Sunday’s loss to the Commanders, Stevenson was given a heavier workload this week, gaining 88 yards on 20 carries. He was especially impressive on a drive that began with just under six minutes left in the third quarter and continued into the fourth, when he had three runs of 8 yards each and another of 9. Perhaps his most impressive run came before Jones’ interception. , when he muscled his way for 6 yards on third-and-5 with 5:40 left in the game, giving the Patriots a first down to the Colts 13. Stevenson now has 482 rushing yards this season – 175 over the last two weeks. It is actually not impossible that he reaches 1,000 yards for the second year in a row.
Demario Douglas: The promising rookie receiver had his most productive game yet, making six catches for 84 yards on nine targets. Much of his yardage came on the aforementioned 30-yard dump just before halftime, but even without that play he would have been the Patriots’ leading receiver by far. He may have made some damaging mistakes. He appeared to be caught in no man’s land when he returned on Colts punter Rigoberto Sanchez’s 69-yard boot that bounced on the Patriots’ 37-yard line and rolled to the 18. And on Rodney Thomas’ interception that thwarted the Patriots’ desperate attempts. On the final drive, quarterback Bailey Zappe’s reaction seemed to indicate that his target, Douglas, was not where he should have been.
Dayo Odeyingbo: Did anyone predict that this guy will be the player of the game? I do not think so. But he certainly made a case. The Colts’ third-year defense started this season with three sacks. He doubled that total less than 18 minutes into the match. Two of his sacks came on third down, including his first on the Patriots’ promising opening possession, when they had to settle for a 37-yard Chad Ryland field goal.
Horror of the game
It must have been Jones’ interception that got him benched. There were other options – JuJu Smith-Schuster had a few penalties before the snap, which is unacceptable – but nothing as egregious or impactful on the outcome of this game and, for that matter, the direction of the franchise.
Three notes scribbled in the margin
Predicted score: Colts 31, Patriots 17
Final score: Colts 10, Patriots 6
Isaiah McKenzie, who torched the Patriots for 11 catches for 125 yards and a touchdown in a 2021 game while with the Bills, remains troublesome. He hauled in a 30-yard catch on third down on the Colts’ first possession, and later returned a kickoff 42 yards. . . The Patriots defense has done a respectable job with Jonathan Taylor. The Colts back ran 9 times for 31 yards on their first series, punctuating it with a 2-yard touchdown run on fourth down. But after that drive, he gained just 38 yards on 14 carries. . . Bryce Baringer averaged 62.5 yards on four punts, including a 79-yarder. Is there any chance he can play quarterback?
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