New England Patriots have been their own biggest enemy in 2021 NFL season

New England Patriots (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
New England Patriots (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) /

The New England Patriots have been their own biggest enemy this season. Whether it be terrible coaching decisions or a lack of execution, the only reason they find themselves with a 2-4 record is because of themselves.

This space has been no stranger to pointing out a clear and present danger and a very visible opportunity to remedy it since the first quarter of the first game.

The New England Patriots poor offensive line choices have cost them several games

When Trent Brown went out with an injury in the first quarter of the first game of the season, the Patriots were immediately found themselves at a crossroads.

They had to determine how they would rearrange the offensive line for the rest of that game and subsequent games until Brown returned.

Again, a calf injury is tricky business for any athlete, but for a 380-pound one, it’s more than just tricky, it’s potentially devastating. And it has been.

Brown hasn’t played a down after the first quarter of the first game. The result has been a 2-4 record and a precarious position if this team had any playoff aspirations.

By playoffs, it now realistically means a wild card spot in the expanded wild card situation. Though absent a monumentally imprudent decision on the offensive line, things may have been different, wildly different.

How the New England Patriots could have been a winning team

A development in last Sunday’s overtime loss to the Dallas Cowboys again brings into focus what might have been if the Patriots’ coaching had been more discerning.

The offensive line is the key to any NFL’s team’s success and is the most important cog in the wheel after the quarterback.

Luckily, the Patriots struck gold with rookie sensation, quarterback Mac Jones. He has been sensational, exceeded expectations.

The young phenom should be the holder of four or maybe even five wins on the season right now. The team could have won three of the four they lost.

Those were the losses to the Miami Dolphins, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and most recently the Cowboys. All were winnable games they lost. The key reason was poor coaching.

When Trent Brown was hurt, an astute offseason move that the Patriots made could have made an immediate impact and significantly altered the season to date if they had just implemented it.

The player acquired was Ted Karras.

Karras was a backup offensive interior lineman at the start of the season. He backed up two interior line positions (guard and center). Fine.

Yet, keep in mind, Karras started all 16 games for the Dolphins last season at center. He’s starter quality for certain.

In addition, he was formerly schooled by the Albert Einstein of offensive line coaches, Dante Scarnecchia. They don’t get any better.

Yet, instead of reverting Michael Onwenu, who played an excellent right tackle in 2020, back to that position in the short-term and inserting Karras into the left guard position, Bill Belichick et al didn’t.

They mistakenly and disastrously installed Justin Herron, a backup level tackle, or newly acquired Yasir Durant into the right tackle position.

They both failed while Karras sat, Onwenu stayed at left guard, and Jones was riddled with sacks, and the team continued to lose games it should have been winning.

The New England Patriots improved with Karras in the lineup and Onwenu at right tackle

Karras only got into a game when the other tackle, Isaiah Wynn was out with COVID. His insertion last Sunday immediately improved the line.

Karras played every snap at left guard. Yet, it wasn’t until the second half of last Sunday’s game against Dallas that Belichick finally made the other move he should have made five weeks ago.

In the second half, he put Onwenu at right tackle while Karras stayed at left guard, and Herron played left tackle in the second half.

It was a big improvement. The Patriots rallied for 15 points in the fourth quarter but lost in overtime, 35-29.

Obviously, Karras at left guard and Onwenu at right tackle is the best alignment available to the team at present no matter who is playing the offensive left tackle position.

Next. New England Patriots: 3 players that need to step up and play better. dark

That blatant coaching error is a shame and a disservice to New England Patriots fans and to Mac Jones, all of whom deserved better. It cost games. Several.

This could have been and frankly should have been a really good 2021 season. Now, it all hinges on one game this Sunday at home against the New York Jets.

Win and the New England Patriots stay alive. Lose and it’s probably time for the team to fold up its tent and start selling off players to playoff teams. It is what it is.