Patriots will want an alpha to emerge on offense in the event that they need to sniff playoffs

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Tom Brady was at Gillette Stadium in Week 1, and but his absence felt omnipresent for the New England Patriots offense, which could not full a comeback in a 25-20 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.

The Patriots offense had alternative after alternative towards the Eagles on Sunday afternoon. For those that turned off the TV after the primary quarter when the Eagles constructed a fast 16-point lead, you would be shocked to listen to the Patriots may’ve gained it.

Maybe they need to’ve gained it.

The Eagles have been clearly the extra gifted workforce, however the Patriots stored themselves related — notably with New England’s protection producing a stunning pressured fumble with 3:35 left within the sport after which a turnover on downs with 1:57 left within the sport.

That put all of the stress on the offense to get the ball in the long run zone. And but New England generated zero factors off these two last-minute takeaways.

“They gave me the ball twice to win the sport, and I could not do it,” quarterback Mac Jones stated. “I’ve simply gotta be higher. … Just felt like I let the protection down and I’ve bought to take care of that.”

He added: “I felt like in essentially the most important instances, I performed my worst. … When it is the toughest, that is when you’ll want to play your finest. I positively can do it. I do know I can do it. I’ve carried out it earlier than.”

There’s the previous cliché that nobody is more durable on [insert name] than [insert name]. But that cliché is actual on the subject of Jones. In a metropolis the place Boston sports activities radio may and would complain about sunny days, Super Bowls and puppies, Jones stays his personal worst critic. That’s a great factor, even when it is robust to look at him rip himself up on the rostrum.

It’s not a disaster of confidence within the locker room, nevertheless.

“I feel as a quarterback, that is how he has to come back up right here and discuss to y’all,” edge Matthew Judon stated postgame. “But we do not care about that. … We cannot put it on Mac. He performed his butt off.”

Jones accomplished 35 of 54 passes for 316 yards, three touchdowns and one interception with two sacks. But these two sacks value the Patriots dearly. The first sack dropped the workforce from second-and-5 to third-and-12. The remaining sack pushed the workforce from second-and-10 to third-and-13. This offense depends enormously on staying on schedule. When they’ve greater than 10 yards to go, it is a bleak outlook for them.

The Patriots went 1-of-4 on fourth down they usually had all three of their turnovers on downs within the remaining 10 minutes of the sport.

“It’s cool that we’re going for it on fourth down,” receiver Kendrick Bourne stated. “It reveals our confidence. I like that. I feel it places stress on different groups. These guys are assured that we’ll get it. I feel we’ll do higher within the subsequent conditions.”

Again, New England is hanging a optimistic tone a few robust scenario. The Patriots have been with out two of their beginning offensive linemen (Michael Onwenu, Cole Strange) and a beginning receiver (DeVante Parker). And, once more, the Eagles are a terrific workforce — they’re Super Bowl favorites.

But towards Philly, the Patriots confirmed the identical drawback that they’ve had since Brady departed. From 2020 to 2022, the Patriots have been 3-13 towards groups that went to the playoffs, as noted by NBC Sports’ Tom Curran. The Patriots beat the Dolphins in 2022, however they’d Teddy Bridgewater and Skylar Thompson at QB. New England beat the Tennessee Titans and Buffalo Bills in 2021. But Buffalo was that insane chilly and windy sport that felt a bit fluky.

I hate to drag a Mike Tirico however even the Patriots’ latest wins towards playoff groups really feel like they’ve asterisks. 

They simply do not appear to have The Guy who will get their workforce over the sting towards elite groups within the fourth quarter.

It was once Brady. But The Guy would not should be a quarterback. When the Patriots drafted Jones at fifteenth total in 2021, they needed to know that he was a QB supported by his pass-catchers in school. Jones will inform you he is a degree guard who performs quarterback. That’s the way in which he performed on Sunday afternoon towards the Eagles. And he did a good job at it, admittedly lacking just a few vital passes, like his pick-six to Bourne and his fourth-down, off-target throw to Kayshon Boutte on the workforce’s remaining offensive snap. Bourne bought his palms on the ball, however could not fairly get his physique in the fitting place to catch the just-off-target throw. Boutte could not fairly hold his toes in-bounds, on a equally just-off-target throw.

If Jones is only a man, perhaps The Guy reveals up at one other place.

Maybe it is a receiver. Maybe it is one of many tight ends. The Guy could possibly be a working again, however the league has indicated financially — by stiffing working backs with shrinking contracts — that the place would not have sufficient sway over successful video games. 

But who can the Patriots look to at these positions? 

Bourne is an possibility. “That’s my go-to man,” Jones stated. But in these remaining three drives that resulted in turnovers on downs, Bourne had only one catch for 9 yards. I repeat: On the three most vital drives.

Tight finish Hunter Henry is likely to be That Guy. He had a terrific one-handed catch on fourth down early within the sport — the lone conversion.

But Henry additionally had a drop on one of many fourth downs the place they didn’t convert. 

New England even appeared to Boutte, a sixth-round rookie, for the all-important and remaining fourth-down conversion with 27 seconds left. It might need been an excessive amount of to ask of the teen in his debut when, frankly, he acquired a surprisingly massive variety of snaps. 

While Boutte ran the route that would have — however did not — win the sport, receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster watched from the sideline. And he is the man the Patriots signed for 3 years and $25 million this offseason in free company. He cannot be The Guy if he isn’t on the sphere. He’s a helpful piece on their offense, a check-down possibility for Jones. But that is on a workforce chock stuffed with check-down choices.

There’s no alpha.

There’s no participant who will make the play that wins them the sport.

Not thus far, no less than.

It’s a cute thought to have so many gamers stable sufficient that the opponents cannot defend all of them. (The Patriots focused 9 totally different pass-catchers.) But while you use the entire workforce, you find yourself asking your sixth-round rookie to make a game-winning catch. And you find yourself shedding due to it. That is likely to be OK in a season when Brady would assist flip the workforce round. That is likely to be OK in an AFC East with groups that stumbled by way of their seasons like they have been sporting clown sneakers.

But identical to the Patriots cannot let themselves face third- or fourth-and-long, they cannot get themselves in a gap on the season.

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The Patriots haven’t got Brady. The AFC East is legit. Tua Tagovailoa reminded everybody how good the Dolphins could be along with his clutch win over the Chargers on Sunday. The Buffalo Bills and New York Jets sq. off on Monday night time in what is bound to be a formidable show from each groups. And these are simply three of the vastly gifted groups the Patriots will face this yr on their massively robust schedule.

There will not be any ethical victories in 2023. The Patriots haven’t got lots of time to determine their offense, their scheme, their creating quarterback and their creating weapons. If they need to keep within the playoff hunt, they should win now. They wanted to win Sunday. Against the Eagles, who gave the Patriots ample possibilities to steal an upset.

And it wasn’t for lack of protection. It was for lack of offense. At some level quickly, the Patriots want an alpha to emerge from their ranks. Or else they are going to spend one other season beneath .500. 

Prior to becoming a member of FOX Sports because the AFC East reporter, Henry McKenna spent seven years overlaying the Patriots for USA TODAY Sports Media Group and Boston Globe Media. Follow him on Twitter at @henrycmckenna.

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