Buffalo Bills’ stampede leaves Bill Belichick, Patriots soul searching

New England Patriots (Photo by Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images)
New England Patriots (Photo by Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images) /

The New England Patriots dynasty took its final breath the day Tom Brady said goodbye to Foxboro, but opposing coaches and teams are still chasing the legacy known as Bill Belichick. One coach and team look like they have matched and bypassed the challenge of that legacy.

In a 47-17 outright butt-kicking, Sean McDermott and the Buffalo Bills showed Belichick and the Patriots who the kings are in the AFC East.  As Josh Allen orchestrated seven consecutive touchdown drives, it was clear the defensive mastermind had no answers for an onslaught that never gave his own quarterback a chance.

Still, Mac Jones will get blame for the offense not matching touchdowns with the Bills, but that is not how the offense was built, at least for this season.  This team was built to run the ball and lean on their defense to keep the game close.

The New England Patriots defense disappeared when the games mattered most

That Patriots’ defense barely even showed up on Saturday night.  Sure, players like Matt Judon, Christian Barmore and Kyle Dugger were playing injured, but where was Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy or Devin McCourty to make sure the team played with some heart?  Where was the athleticism of Jamie Collins or the ball hawking skills of J.C. Jackson who is looking for a big payday in 2022?

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Where was that defense that stymied offenses during a seven-game winning streak that propelled a 2-4 start to a 9-4 record that stood at the top AFC at the time?

Was it all smoke and mirrors? Or was Belichick just able to cover up weaknesses exposed by the Bills?

Whatever is the case, the Patriots coach knows he must go back to the drawing board this offseason and revamp a defense that looked slow, undisciplined, and not physical enough to compete with a team like the Bills when the stakes are high.

"“Yeah, well I think we have to take a good long look again, not at just one game, but at all 18,” Belichick said during his press conference on Sunday.   “You could argue that there were elements of last night’s game and some other games, but you’re right. Last night’s game was the least competitive game that we played last year. So again, is that what we are, or is that a bad night? We’ll see when we start playing again next year, I guess.”"

The embarrassing 47-17 wipeout shouldn’t overshadow the positives of the season.  The New England Patriots do have players on both sides of the ball who give the team a nice nucleus heading forward.  Mac Jones should be better in his second year.  They found a nice, little playmaker in Kendrick Bourne and the league should fear the tandem of Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson for years to come.

While a big-time receiver is a must, the defensive side of the ball is where Belichick should focus all his attention.  A healthy Barmore and Judon will be a force, but that linebacker group needs to get faster and more aggressive.  The secondary needs to be strengthened as well.  That of course starts with locking up J.C. Jackson and getting a solid No. 2 cornerback either through free agency or through the draft.

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Although the season in all was a step forward, the way the New England Patriots didn’t show up to compete with an AFC East foe was disheartening and will take some soul searching.  A stubborn head coach will have to change his approach on the defensive side of the ball.  He sounds up for the challenge, which should make for another intriguing offseason in Foxborough, Massachusetts.