New England Patriots have lost their way and beating themselves

Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots reacts after a game against the Las Vegas Raiders at Allegiant Stadium. (Photo by Chris Unger/Getty Images)
Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots reacts after a game against the Las Vegas Raiders at Allegiant Stadium. (Photo by Chris Unger/Getty Images) /

The New England Patriots didn’t lose to the Las Vegas Raiders solely because of wide receiver Jakobi Meyers failed lateral that was picked off and returned for a touchdown. While that provided the final margin, that doesn’t tell the whole story.

New England didn’t lose because a punt was blocked and returned for a score. The Patriots didn’t lose because two touchdowns were called back because a timeout was called before the snap and an offside penalty negated the other.

Not one moment or play from Sunday is why the Patriots now sit at 7-7 with their playoff hopes teetering on the edge. The Meyers lateral is emblematic of what has happened all season long that put New England in this precarious position.

The New England Patriots have lost their way

The 2022 Patriots are very uncharacteristic from the standard that was set during the dynasty years. They are plagued by mental errors. They are currently the 10th most penalized team in the NFL. Often these penalties happen at the worst times, killing drives that could lead to points.

In short, the Patriots keep beating themselves.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB Tom Brady, the on-field leader of the Patriots dynasty, recently revealed during his “Let’s Go!” Podcast one lesson he learned from Patriots head coach Bill Belichick was that more games are lost than won in the NFL:

"And that’s essentially how I ended up seeing the game a lot now. So not that I want to be negative but I do want to point out and Belichick taught this to me a lot, you know, is you know, you and I said this to Jim, you know, it’s hard to win a game in the NFL, there’s more games lost in the NFL than they’re won. If you don’t screw it up, you got a great chance to win because most people do just mess it up, Brady concluded."

Well this season, it’s the Patriots that screw it up. Repeatedly.

How does a franchise that’s been the model for the rest of the league for two decades fall apart, especially at the worst times? There’s lot of blame to go around. We can point fingers at Mac Jones, Matt Patricia and Joe Judge, but we’ll start at the top.

Before the season started, Belichick answered the media’s queries about if Patricia and Judge fail by saying, “blame me.” Belichick is right. It is his fault for assigning two coaches with no offensive experience as offensive coaches. While it is the second year of a rebuild, that’s not an excuse to let Patricia and Judge learn on the job without mentors to learn from.

It’s especially critical when they’re responsible for developing the franchise quarterback entering his second year. Jones was supposed to take a big leap forward after a very promising rookie year. That leap became a fall as Jones was indecisive and forced passes early this season as Jones and his teammates were adjusting to changes to the offense.

Jones has significantly cleaned up his game after the bye week, but now we’re seeing signs of frustration from the face of the New England Patriots, suggesting he’s bumping heads with Patricia.

Maybe that frustration is affecting Jones’ play on the field. The goal line false start against the Raiders was preceded by a time out just before the ball was snapped and Jones hit Meyers for a touchdown. If Jones was still annoyed, Jonnu Smith’s false start penalty might actually be Jones’ fault because he didn’t give Smith time to set before the ball was snapped. Irritation can lead to impatience.

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Jones isn’t the only one guilty of mental lapses. How many times were the Patriots in Minnesota Vikings territory only for the offensive line the fall apart?

Patricia is the O-line coach so that falls at his feet, but it’s more than that. The discipline that we’re used to isn’t here anymore. The false starts/offsides, missed assignments and untimely turnovers didn’t happen as much as it does now.

We could believe coaching attrition has finally caught up to the Patriots, but even with the number of times Belichick promoted from within, the Patriots still didn’t beat themselves with mental errors. We credited Belichick for his well-coached team. Now that the team isn’t performing well, Belichick deserves the criticism.

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With three possible playoff teams left on the schedule, the New England Patriots playoff hopes currently on life support could have the plug pulled before New Year’s Day. A season full of promise will be remembered for fourth quarter penalties, fumbles and interceptions.

There’s a lot of room for improvement for next year. Talent upgrades are in order. And hiring an experienced offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach could go a long way towards reducing the mental errors.

Ultimately, it’s up to Belichick. He could assign the right coaches and make all the right changes to the roster. If Belichick is unable to restore the Patriot Way, the calls for Belichick to find his way out of New England will grow louder.