The short-lived optimism that Patriots fans held following the upset over the Baltimore Ravens on Oct. 15 was quickly demolished on Sunday following their crushing defeat to the 3–7 Houston Texans. Even when the Patriots felt like they turned that hypothetical corner after their atrocious losing streak, all that momentum was lost to a Texans team that is essentially playing for a draft pick at this point.
The Patriots took every positive from last week’s win and decided to completely flip the game plan against the Texans. Instead of running the ball down their throats, the Patriots were running these gimpy screens to James White or Rex Burkhead which were completely ineffective. Moreover, they ran fake jet sweeps to draft bust N’keal Harry which led to multiple sacks. They were also running “Lombardi Sweeps” with Damien Harris, who is more effective between the tackles.
On the defensive side, the pass rush seemed nonexistent on Sunday. The Texans are known for having a porous offensive line and Bill Belichick didn’t even attempt to take advantage of their weak link. They mostly only ran a 3–4 defense and kept their linebackers in coverage. Now, I understand that Deshaun Watson is a top 10 quarterback in the NFL and can make plays with his feet; however, you cannot give him five to eight seconds in the pocket because he will eventually stretch the field and find an open receiver.
Last week against the Ravens, 2020 second-round pick Kyle Dugger was an absolute wrecking ball on defense; he notched 12 tackles and was in Lamar Jackson’s dome all night. This week, they utilized Dugger differently, which is a head-scratching move considering Watson has a similar style of play as Jackson. Instead of the safety blitzes that were effective against Baltimore, Dugger was in coverage for most of the day. Bill Belichick is just trying to screw with us Patriots fans at this point. If Dugger is effective as a jack-of-all-trades safety, then why stick him in coverage for most of the game? The Patriots game plan today boggled my mind.
Cam Newton needs to stop focusing on what game day outfit will make him look like a pilgrim and actually learn how to play football seriously. To his credit, he connected on some great throws to Damiere Byrd, who looked like a Pro Bowl receiver against the Texans. Once again, the same story rings true with Newton who failed to piece together a game-winning drive. Each week he looks more uncomfortable in the pocket and chucks up Pop Warner-caliber throws that are either intercepted or tipped. We need a new quarterback.
What stings the most about this season is that the Patriots are essentially stuck between two identities: either tank for a good draft pick, or be a playoff contender. Being completely unbiased, the Patriots will most likely finish between 9–7 or 7–9 and fail to make the playoffs and receive a mediocre draft pick. The front office must figure out the future of this organization, because right now this team is looking like the Titanic, and it already hit the iceberg.