Patriots’ offense shows play action, deception work in loss to Bills

ORCHARD PARK, NEW YORK - JANUARY 08: Mac Jones #10 of the New England Patriots attempts a pass during the third quarter against the Buffalo Bills at Highmark Stadium on January 08, 2023 in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images)
ORCHARD PARK, NEW YORK - JANUARY 08: Mac Jones #10 of the New England Patriots attempts a pass during the third quarter against the Buffalo Bills at Highmark Stadium on January 08, 2023 in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images) /

The New England Patriots played a decent game against a strong Buffalo Bills team in Buffalo but came up short and as predicted were beaten by the Bills 35-23.

MVP-level quarterback Josh Allen threw three touchdown passes to crush the Pats’ hopes for a playoff berth.

Two improbable kickoff returns for touchdowns by Nyheim Hines also helped usher in the Patriots demise. Special teams need a lot of work in the offseason.

In the process, the Pats ended their mediocre season 8-9 and lost an opportunity with a win to be a Wild Card playoff team for the second straight year.

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With their vanilla offense being called out all season long, the Patriots for some strange reason decided to open things up a bit and actually looked like a real NFL offense against the Bills in the losing effort.

So the season ends disappointingly, but looking ahead to 2023, there may be reasons for optimism on offense. There was clearly some life shown by this season-long underachieving unit. Why it took so long to unveil this new wrinkle is debatable.

Yet, it looked good and there could be hope for the future for both Jones and the offense in general.

Can the New England Patriots be dangerous in 2023?

What the Buffalo game signifies is important for the future potential success of the team. The Patriots proved that when they run a real offense, not a high school level one, Mac Jones may just be an NFL winner.

Jones had a so-so game, completing 24 of 37 passes with three touchdowns for only 234 yards but he had three costly interceptions.

In addition, dynamic young running back Rhamondre Stevenson (disclosure: a favorite in this space) cracked 1000 yards rushing in his second season.

It was a breakout year for the second-year Oklahoma product who has worked himself into a top-level NFL back in every aspect of the position. With a few key additions, the Patriots’ offense could be a competitive one for the AFC East crown in 2023.

The team absolutely needs some additions. Yet, it was obvious that Kendrick Bourne, in the doghouse all season long can still play and that Jakobi Meyers is a solid number two NFL receiver though he is a free agent after the season.

The New England Patriots need offensive additions this offseason

After wiping out a good part of the offensive line last off-season, the team paid the price in 2022. They were inconsistent and lacked sufficient depth to withstand the always-present injuries.

The first goal is to draft an offensive left tackle with their first pick and another in the mid-rounds. They need depth there and at guard/center and the draft is the way to go.

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In addition, the always-present need for a game-breaking, take-it-to-the-house wide receiver or two still exists. Second-round pick Tyquan Thornton wasn’t the answer in his rookie season. The need remains and should be filled in free agency. The team can’t draft wideouts.

So the good news was that the re-energized Patriots’ offense and their sold defense proved they could play tough against the Buffalo Bills. The bad news was that their season ended with that loss.

Yet, the future may look brighter than previously thought. Jones proved he can run an offense that includes deception, play-action, and some trick plays to throw off a defense. But he still makes too many mistakes.

The offensive coaching was sorely lacking until the very end of the season. Why was that the case? Well, Bill Belichick hired Matt Patricia a defensive coach to run his offense. It didn’t work at all until it was too late. Has Patricia now learned enough?

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Today’s game showed that the New England Patriots do have an offense and it could be very good next season. Absent Jones’ untimely interceptions and the two kickoff TD returns, the Patriots went toe-to-toe with the Bills.

Maybe it was a harbinger of good things to come or maybe it was a fluke. We’ll see. First, they need a great off-season to add the necessary pieces. But today’s game proved they may not be as far away from competing for the AFC East title again as some had thought. Let’s hope so.