On Thursday Night Football, the New England Patriots walked out of Pittsburgh with a 21-18 win. New England's victory snapped a five game losing streak, and for the first time since a last-second win over Buffalo in Week 5, Patriots fans had a reason to be optimistic.
Second-year quarterback Bailey Zappe rejuvenated a putrid offense in the first half, tossing three touchdown passes as New England jumped out to a 21-3 lead early. The Patriots hadn't scored 21 points in an entire game since that win over Buffalo, and their 21 points were the team's second-highest total of the season.
Although the offense's failure to put up any points in the second half and attempted choke job down the stretch should give Patriots fans some pause, it's been 46 days since they've been able to enjoy a win, so they can have their minute. For those Patriots fans on "team tank", they will be relieved to know that (at least for now), New England maintains the second overall pick in the upcoming 2024 draft. It's really a win-win for everyone.
The road doesn't get any easier, as New England will take on perennial Super Bowl contender Kansas City, after the Patriots had the embarrassing distinction of being the first team ever flexed out of Monday Night Football.
Despite some optimism emanating from Thursday night's win, here are four players who should be a little less optimistic about their future in New England.
4. Mike Gesicki
Tight end Mike Gesicki is in New England on a one-year deal, and that will also likely be the entirety of his stay with the team.
Although it's difficult to point the finger at any of the Patriots' offensive skill players given the team's quarterback play, Gesicki's production pales in comparison to his time with the division-rival Miami Dolphins, and preseason hopes of a dynamic tight end duo of Gesicki and Hunter Henry has never materialized.
At 28, Gesicki should be in the midst of the prime of his career. Instead, he will set numerous career lows this season in New England. In his first five NFL seasons, he averaged 74 targets, 46.2 catches, 3.6 touchdowns, and 523 yards receiving. In 2023, Gesicki has been limited to 32 targets, 21 catches, 182 yards, and only one touchdown (albeit a dramatic game winner over the Bills with 12 seconds left in Week 5).
Gesicki's value has been one-dimensional, as he's failed to provide any real contribution in the blocking game. Per Patriots radio color commentator Scott Zolak, Gesicki was taken out of the tight ends room and the team is coaching him as a wide receiver.
A parting of the ways may be best for both parties in this situation. Gesicki doesn't seem to fit into what the Patriots want to do on offense, and Gesicki has to feel that he can be far more productive on another team and emulate the production of his Miami days.