The Patriots’ offensive struggles appeared to reach a breaking point during their 24-10 loss to the Bills on Thursday night.
Late in the game, Mac Jones was seen on the broadcast yelling expletives on the sideline, showing frustration with how the passing game was going for them during the night.
Following the game, Jones downplayed the incident and said his comments were directed at no one in particular. However, his outburst seemed to encapsulate the overall feeling many have about the Patriots’ struggling offense, which is being run by offensive line coach and senior advisor Matt Patricia.
With the Patriots’ offense taking a major step back from last season — when they ranked in the top 10 in several metrics with most of the same players on this year’s roster — the question of whether Patricia and Jones are the right men for their respective jobs has become bigger than ever.
NFL Network insider Ian Rapoport thinks there might be a temporary change to the problem for the final five games of this season as the Patriots try to improve from their 6-6 record and make the playoffs.
“This felt a little more. I don’t think it was nothing,” Rapoport said of the clip of Jones that went viral on “The Pat McAfee Show.” “Like, has it been brewing? There’s been frustration with the offense. They haven’t been as productive (as) they’ve wanted. Third down, red zone, they certainly haven’t been as productive as they’ve wanted.
“I think the choice of Matt Patricia as essentially play-caller/offensive coordinator is probably going to go down as one of the most debated of Belichick’s tenure. There’s a chance it gets better. My guess would be Belichick takes over the offense a little more as he does sometimes when things aren’t going great. But of all the symbols of the Patriots’ season, don’t you think this will be one of them?”
Rapoport also cited Belichick’s refusal to call his final three timeouts following the onside kick as a potential sign that he might not have trust in the offense. Belichick said after the game that he didn’t “think it was worth it” after he took the opposite approach in Week 3 when Jones got hurt.
Jones’s Week 3 injury, which resulted in a high left ankle sprain that cost him three games, might be part of the reason he’s playing the way he is now. He’s already been sacked 25 times in nine games this season (and he only played a quarter in one of them), which is only three fewer than the number of times he was sacked last season.
Jones was sacked just once on Thursday, but was hit four times and scrambled a lot in the pocket at least a few more times.
The Monday Morning Quarterback’s Albert Breer said that there seems to be a common view on the way Jones’s playing right now around the league.
“Last night, it started to look like he was losing trust,” Breer said on 98.5 The Sports Hub’s “Toucher and Rich.” “I’ve felt this way for a little while, and I’ve talked to some teams that studied him, it doesn’t look like he trusts anything. It doesn’t look like he trusts the play-calling. It doesn’t look like he trusts his teammates. It looks like he doesn’t trust anything.
“And that’s how you ruin a young quarterback.”
Jones’s numbers have been worse so far in Year 2, which was viewed as a pivotal season for his growth. He’s completed 68.1 percent of his passes for 1,963 yards with seven touchdowns, seven interceptions, and an 87.0 passer rating.
Now, barring a drastic turnaround in the final five games, Jones will have a crucial Year 3 ahead of him, according to Breer. The Patriots will have to make a decision on his fifth-year option on his rookie contract, which Breer estimates will be worth around $30 million, following the 2023 season, and he thinks they could take a lesson from one of their division rivals on how to handle the situation.
“Next year is so critical,” Breer said. “In all likelihood, you’re going to come out of this season in a similar spot to where Miami was last year. Miami last year had no idea on Tua [Tagovailoa]. I think most people on the outside, I’ll put my hand up and say I didn’t think Tua was the answer, but after last year, they made the commitment in the offseason and said, ‘You know what, we’re going to have (to) make a decision on his fifth-year option after Year 3. We’re going to have to make a decision on his extension. We’ve got these big decisions coming. Let’s see what we have, rather than making a second run at Deshaun Watson, let’s just see what we have.’
“This was driven, in part, by ownership. They got Tyreek Hill. They hired Mike McDaniel. They signed Terron Armstead to play left tackle for them. It now looks completely different. I think so much of next year has to be focused on getting an answer on Mac Jones.”
The Dolphins’ decision to go all-in on building around Tagovailoa has worked to this point. Miami’s third-year quarterback leads the league in passer rating (115.7) and the Dolphins’ passing DVOA has been historically good when Tagovailoa has played this season.
Of course, Tagovailoa and Jones are different players and the latter might not have the same success the former’s had with the same group. But both players shared second-year struggles as Tagovailoa threw for 2,653 yards on just 6.8 yards per attempt with 16 touchdowns, 10 interceptions, and a 90.1 passer rating in 2021.
Time will tell how the Patriots will treat their offensive issues though and with each passing week, it looks like some big decisions will have to be made.
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