New England Patriots: Inexplicably poor coaching costs Pats a victory

Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /

The New England Patriots record fell to 1-2 this afternoon after losing to the New Orleans Saints by a score of 28-13.

While the Patriots were able to make things interesting in the fourth quarter, they couldn’t make enough big plays on either side of the ball to pull out a win. Now they find themselves with a losing record as they head into a much anticipated showdown against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

For the most part, this was an ugly showing for the Pats. Their offense again struggled to score points, and Mac Jones threw the first three interceptions of his career, two of which were particularly painful to watch. And then when the offense finally brought the game to within one possession, the defense allowed the Saints offense to drive down the field for a touchdown, killing the clock and effectively ending the game in the process.

There were a lot of poor performances from the players today, but easily the worst performance took place on the sidelines today. In other words, New England’s coaching staff failed to put their players in the right positions to succeed this afternoon, and their poor coaching arguably cost the team a victory.

How the New England Patriots coaching staff failed the team today

The Patriots struggles had been bubbling to the surface, especially after their less than convincing win over the hapless New York Jets in Week 2. New England didn’t play their best football, but considering it was against the Jets, it didn’t end up mattering. It was clear though that if they put up a performance like they did in Week 2 against a tougher opponent they would lose. That’s precisely what happened today.

And unfortunately, the blame falls on the coaches in this one. Sure, the players have to go out and execute when they are called upon, but the coaching staff made so many mind-boggling decisions today it was a surprise the game was even close heading into the fourth quarter.

Cooks sure would look good in New England. light. Related Story

Let’s start with an offensive line decision that has been heavily scrutinized throughout the start of the season. Starting right tackle Trent Brown was once again missing in action for this one, leading to Justin Herron getting the start. It’s clear that the Patriots best offensive line combination without Brown playing would involve sliding left guard Michael Onwenu to right tackle, and inserting backup guard/center hybrid Ted Karras at left guard.

Instead, head coach Bill Belichick has continued to defy that proposition, and has inserted the revolving door combination of Herron and Yasir Durant so far. Jones was only sacked twice by the Saints today, but he was once again under pressure for the majority of the game. It’s clear the New England Patriots aren’t using their five best o-linemen, and why they continue to do so is beyond confusing.

Another lineup miscue involved Damien Harris. Harris had been on the injury report for most of the week, but was cleared to go in advance rather than being a game-time decision. Despite that, Harris rarely saw the field in this one, and ended up being out snapped by special teams veteran Brandon Bolden.

Unless Harris aggravated his prior injury or picked up a new one, there is literally no reason for Bolden to be seeing the field more than him. The Patriots after all traded Sony Michel to the Los Angeles Rams during training camp because of how confidant they were in their running back room. It remains to be seen why they haven’t leaned on them more often. Bolden getting a ton of snaps in this one just adds to the confusion surrounding this position through three games.

That leads up to another issue, which would be the playcalling. The playcalling was pretty poor on both sides of the ball, but it was particularly awful on offense, leading to yet another chorus of chants for Josh McDaniels’ head on a platter.

Those chants are most certainly warranted. McDaniels was trying to be cute with his play selection all afternoon, as he usually is. But there were two plays in particular that were more annoying than the rest, and were indicative of the offense’s struggles as a whole.

The first was a set of plays to kick off the second half. On the first play of the half, Jones threw a pass to Jonnu Smith that was a bit out of his reach, and he ended up bobbling it right into the hands of Malcolm Jenkins, who promptly returned it for a touchdown. The pass from Jones wasn’t great, but it hit Smith’s hands, so he’s got to have it.

McDaniels followed it up with an absolute doozy of a call on the next drive that was a screen to Smith on third and six. The only problem was Smith apparently forgot how to catch a football during halftime and dropped the ball despite no one even being in his vicinity.

The issue is pretty clear. Smith was struggling with drops all day long (he finished the day with four), and yet McDaniels decides to draw up a screen play Smith, which he proceeds to drop. I get wanting to get a guy back in the rhythm of a game, but don’t dial up a play for in on third down when you are losing by 18 points. It was a stunning lack of situational awareness from McDaniels, and the New England Patriots were forced to punt as a result.

The second came right before halftime as the offense was driving down the field. Faced with a third and one, McDaniels calls a stretch run to the right side of the field with Bolden as the running back. Considering the struggles the right side of the line has had so far, and the fact that Bolden isn’t really a running back, it’s no surprise the Saints stuffed them.

Why on earth McDaniels would call this play in this situation is beyond me. There’s no sense trying to catch the opposition off guard by attempting to use a weakness to your advantage. The New England Patriots promptly lined up to go for it on fourth and one, but Hunter Henry committed a false start, and forced Nick Folk into action.

dark. Next. Ball security a big concern for the Pats

It was just another foolish call on a day full of them. Even defensively, the playcalling was a bit too soft for the team to really be able to do damage. A third and seven play early on the Saints final touchdown drive saw the defense go soft in coverage rather than blitzing Saints quarterback Jameis Winston, which had been successful all day long. New Orleans picked up 12 yards on the play and never looked back.

It all adds up to a poor day at the office for the Patriots and their coaching staff. They were outcoached by the Saints on the other sideline, and there’s good reason to believe it cost them a chance at a victory. The players certainly need to improve, but until the coaches do the same, don’t expect to see the New England Patriots end up in the win column anytime soon.