The ending confirmed what we already knew: The Patriots are lost

Patriots

No other play could have more perfectly summed up the dysfunctional New England Patriots than the one they pulled off in Vegas.

Patriots quarterback Mac Jones (right) comes to the sidelines to confer with assistant coaches Joe Judge (left) and Matt Patricia (center) in the second quarter with New England deep in Raiders territory. They would not score a touchdown on the drive and have to settle for a field goal. Jim Davis/The Boston Globe

  • Jim Davis/Globe Staff

    Mac Jones says Hail Mary throw against Raiders wouldn’t have been too far for him

  • Bill Belichick discussed the Patriots’ mistakes, controversial officiating, and the astonishing final play

COMMENTARY

It was perfect.

Fifty years from now, it will remain the most defining sequence of the 2022 New England Patriots, a disastrous medley of incompetence that cements the fact that the team just isn’t smart enough to keep pace with its pedestrian talent.

This was one of the primary characteristics that has helped Bill Belichick become the second-greatest NFL coach of all time, coaching up talent that might be lesser than the competition across the field into a disciplined unit where the sum was often greater. Even with Tom Brady at the helm, Belichick-coached teams would often wait for the other team to screw up while they, quietly, went about following the fundamentals of the game. Just waiting for the right time to pounce.

Whatever embers might still be burning from the Patriots’ two-decade dynasty were snuffed out in a matter of seconds Sunday night in Las Vegas, where the Patriots could have, should have beaten Josh McDaniels’ abhorrent Raiders. The final play of the game was so dumb that it has completely overshadowed the controversy surrounding one of the worst replay reviews of the NFL season only moments earlier.

Conclusive via video replay or not, Keelan Cole’s foot was out of bounds on the 30-yard “touchdown” pass that Raiders quarterback Derek Carr threw to tie the game at 24 with less than a minute remaining. Replay confirmed this fairly vividly. NFL senior vice president of officiating Walt Anderson said afterwards that there “was nothing that was clear and obvious that his foot was touching the white,” so the refs had to stay with the way it was called on the field. It was the Tuck Rule for a whole new generation of fans.

But that obvious error wasn’t why the Patriots lost Sunday. Blame the team’s overall incompetence for that.

Former Pro Bowl quarterback Mac Jones was, once again, awful, this time against his former offensive coordinator. Jones completed only 13 of his 31 passes Sunday, and this on a day when the much-maligned offensive line in front of him brought its best performance of the season. It was the first time since the Chicago game that Jones wasn’t sacked at least once; the first time since the second week of the season in Pittsburgh if you want to look for a game in which the starting QB played more than just a handful of series. Running backs Rhamondre Stevenson and Pierre Strong, Jr., meanwhile, combined for 197 yards on the ground, furthering the argument that it’s the only thing the Patriots’ offense can do effectively.

Somebody might want to point that out to Matt Patricia, Joe Judge, the Great Gazoo, or whoever the hell is calling the plays in the red zone, where New England’s offense continued to flatline. At one point in the first half, the Patriots actually scored a pair of touchdowns on one possession. Neither counts.

One was a nifty Jones pass to Jakobi Meyers in the back of the end zone negated by a Patriots timeout, another called back thanks to a false start by Jonnu Smith. Even more humbling, the Raiders had allowed something like — 100 PERCENT — of all opponent drives inside the five-yard-line to score a touchdown over the last four games. Then, here come your New England Patriots, where the ball at the one-yard line, usually means a field goal attempt is upcoming.

And yet, in time, the Patriots would have won the game. Or, at least headed to overtime.

Which is where the real fun begins.

Let’s be clear, in crafting the Dumbest Play in NFL History™ it’s easy to lay blame directly at the hands of Stevenson and Meyers, who made decisions in the heat of the moment that will go down in the history of sports greatest blunders. Were they unaware that the score was tied? Did Patricia instruct them to try something goofy in order to avoid overtime? Did nobody in the huddle re-iterate the importance of not turning the ball over? And why the hell wasn’t Belichick taking the knee anyway with only seconds on the clock? What happened to everything we’ve been complaining about for years?

You know what happened. Stevenson burst for a 23-yard gain on the final play, a development that might have encouraged the running back to go for the win right then and there. That’s when he should have succumbed.

Instead, Stevenson tossed the ball back to Meyers, who looked like the bottle had just landed on him in a spin game played only with his sisters and aunts. Not knowing what to do, Meyers threw the ball back to his quarterback, but it ended up in the vicinity of old friend Chandler Jones, who scooped the ball up and ran it in for the final score.

Raiders 30. Patriots 24.

Perfect.

No other play could have more perfectly summed up the dysfunctional New England Patriots than the one they pulled off in Vegas. In terms of situational football, the very basics of the game that Belichick has preached in his coaching since the dawn of time, completely unraveled, revealing the core of the team to be unsuitable for broadcast (NBC dumped this game, remember, for the Giants and Commanders). The inmates, meanwhile, are openly revolting against Patricia and Judge, the special teams remain a laughingstock, and Mac Jones is throwing short passes into the ground. The good news is that the delusional among us can now stop with the farcical playoff push.

Who deserves the blame for this game? Where do you start?

Stevenson and Meyers will go down in history as the architects but the season was lost long before that stupidity ever came to pass.

That play confirms everything we thought was true about the Patriots this season. They should have won more; namely against Green Bay, Minnesota, and Vegas. They could be 10-4 and competing for the top seed in the AFC.

In reality, you know that’s not who the Patriots are.

If there’s any confusion about that, just look to Sunday in Vegas, where the team confirmed that it is collectively dumber than we could have ever possibly imagined.

Three games remain this season. None of them matter.

What a perfect disaster.

Leave a Comment