By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Oftentimes after an enormous playoff loss, you possibly can run the entire recreation again by your head and play the “What if?” recreation. If solely this ball had bounced a unique means, if solely that penalty hadn’t been known as, if solely these performs occurred in another way, then maybe the ultimate outcome would have gone the opposite means.
However on this recreation? This one? Brother, you possibly can play the “What if?” recreation for an hour and a half with out getting the Payments’ margin of victory right down to single digits.
Likewise, a staff’s playoff losses usually are typically memorable from begin to end. Title a play, a state of affairs, a second, and your complete image reappears in your head as if it’s being performed by a reel-to-reel. Not so on this case.
What did the Gabriel Davis landing make the rating once more? Gabriel Davis did catch a landing, proper? What about Emmanuel Sanders’ lengthy bomb — did that make it 33-3? Or have been the Payments already up by 30 at that time? Who was chargeable for letting that O-lineman get vast open in the long run zone? Wait — Devin Singletary scored two touchdowns?
Who can preserve observe, actually? The entire evening was a whirlwind. The once-proud champs stood within the heart of the ring and absorbed haymaker after haymaker from the hungry up-and-comers from Buffalo. Sadly for New England, soccer has no bell, and it has no knockouts. It simply has a clock. And this clock on this explicit evening will need to have felt prefer it was ticking at half-speed for everyone on the Patriots’ sideline.
Whereas all of that makes for an amazing evening for the Patriots, the one resounding message left after the 47-17 drubbing is easy.
The Patriots should not within the higher class of the AFC. In actual fact, they’re not notably shut.
They went 2-3 this season towards groups that made the playoffs. A kind of wins concerned a once-in-a-lifetime wind storm (which was their MVP on that evening), and the opposite got here towards a Titans staff that was with out Derrick Henry and A.J. Brown. They rely, certain. However they’re not notably convincing victories. And Saturday evening confirmed that the hole between the Patriots and a real contender is huge.
Individuals will level to at least one factor or one other: the quarterback, the coach, the defensive workers, the particular groups, the linebackers, the defensive backfield, and so forth. However the actuality is that there’s not one or two fast fixes the Patriots could make to get wherever near the place they used to function. They’ll should scratch and claw and outthink and outcompete their opposition only for the hope of getting again to the practical degree at which they used to idle.
Bit jarring, yeah? The Payments’ blowout offered that sort of thump for New England.
However, we should leftover, so right here we go.
–I’m not going to cite myself. That’d be lame. BUT, after the win over the Jaguars I wrote that the Patriots had fulfilled the preseason expectations that almost all people on the earth had for them heading into the season: win 10, perhaps 11 video games, and make the playoffs. Perhaps win a playoff recreation in the event that they’re fortunate. It was after that Jaguars win, I wrote, that we’d get to see “the enjoyable half,” the place we’d discover out “if the Patriots have what it takes to really exceed expectations — and to what extent they can try this.”
(Ah, jeez. Quoted myself. That’s on me. That’s my unhealthy, folks.)
Properly. They went out and obtained thumped by the Dolphins, who had nothing to play for, who have been a day away from firing their head coach, who additionally improved to 3-1 vs. the Pats within the post-Brady period. (Miami’s been bullying the Patriots since Week 17 of the 2019 season, actually.) Then they flew to Buffalo and obtained blown out of the constructing.
So we came upon that this explicit band of Patriots was certainly not able to exceeding expectations. And the extent to which they fell in need of exceeding expectations must be legitimately alarming. Throw the Jaguars recreation out (as a result of they’re a joke, and you need to by no means measure your self towards a joke) and the Patriots misplaced 4 video games after their Week 14 bye — 4 important video games — they usually weren’t notably shut. Three of the losses got here by double digits. The ultimate one got here by 30.
In a spot the place the usual was once “the season begins on the AFC Championship Recreation,” it shouldn’t slip all the best way right down to “effectively they gained 10 video games and made the playoffs.” That’s Colty. Don’t neglect that.
–In that very same regard, I’ve by no means seen the child gloves come out quicker than they did for Mac Jones after he ended the primary playoff drive of his profession by throwing an interception in the long run zone. Was it play by Micah Hyde? Positive, after all it was. Nice play. However the move might have been quite a bit higher. The proof for that’s that the move was picked off.
In case you actually need to, watch how Nelson Agholor adjusts his route on the 5-yard line. Whereas trying up for the ball, he cuts in towards the center of the sphere. In that spot, the quarterback’s going to need to lead his receiver the opposite means, towards the boundary, away from the security, to provide the receiver extra time and house to make an uncontested catch. He additionally would possibly need to look off the security for even a split-second earlier than throwing to the supposed receiver.
MICAH HYDE NO FLY ZONE
— PFF (@PFF) January 16, 2022
In case you can forgive the blurry image taken from heaven, it may be laid out fairly merely. Main Agholor on the inexperienced path is a TD. The purple path is a threat of an INT. We all know the place the move ended up.
That Jones was locked in on Agholor the entire play additionally made Hyde’s job just a little bit simpler. And within the playoffs, just a little bit means quite a bit.
Once more, in a recreation the place the opponent gained by one-thousand soccer factors, it doesn’t matter. And a 35-yard bomb on a 7-degree evening does have a respectable diploma of problem. However why the child gloves? That is the NFL, and that is the playoffs. A choose in the long run zone is a choose in the long run zone.
–Maybe now that Mac Jones is now not a rookie, the child glove utility will fade away. In a means, the endurance and tranquility that lots of people considered his rookie season was barely out of character however nonetheless factor for all of New England this yr. Identical to the staff round him, Jones roughly met expectations as a rookie.
However he’s formally a veteran now. So the subsequent time he throws a choose in the long run zone in a playoff recreation, we don’t all should faux just like the interception was an act of God, one which Jones had completely no management over and one which was merely destined to occur. We don’t try this for actually anyone else — in reality, we’ve been identified to have fun or two when different QBs make such errors — and now Mac can be part of the gang.
–In case you have been to play the “What if?” recreation, I’d allow you to go this far. The sport might need been totally different if Isaiah McKenzie’s fumble counted on the opening kickoff and if Josh Bailey had magically recovered it. The sport might need gone just a little in another way if Brandon Bolden hadn’t dropped a wide-the-eff-open move on the opening drive:
(What if Brandon Bolden wore sleeves on this arctic evening? Simply one thing to consider.)
I’ll additionally help you marvel what would have occurred if the Patriots went for it on fourth-and-1 on their second possession. Punting it away whereas already trailing by 14 factors felt like a case of “let’s lose later as a substitute of shedding proper now.” However even that’s unfair, as a result of realistically, even when the Patriots picked up the yard, they’d most likely find yourself going through a fourth-and-8 and … punting just a few performs later.
That’s about so far as I’ll allow you to take the “What if?” recreation. Hope it was enjoyable for you.
–This was the primary signal of the evening that the Patriots had themselves a drawback in Josh Allen.
— NFL (@NFL) January 16, 2022
Matthew Judon performed it proper, going into his drop whereas preserving his eyes locked on Allen. As quickly as Allen broke to scramble, Judon broke too. The 2 gamers have been 15 yards aside. Judon ran straight at Allen’s sternum. The play was there to be made to restrict this to no achieve. However Allen made the only of cuts, breaking to his left and breaking Judon’s ankles within the course of. Judon was caught flat-footed within the open discipline. Allen was gone.
To be honest, I don’t know what the suitable personnel seems to be wish to limiting Allen in a state of affairs like that. However the Patriots undoubtedly don’t have it.
–Likewise, when Large Unhealthy Christian Barmore is letting Allen slip by his palms …
Josh Allen operating by tackles 💪
4 carries, 54 yards. #SuperWildCard
— NFL (@NFL) January 16, 2022
… it’s simply merely not ever going to be your night.
–It was fairly applicable for the Patriots to get penalized for having 12 males within the huddle within the fourth quarter. The season started with the Patriots operating round like headless chickens, having too many males on each side of the fields (typically after timeouts), having too few males on the sphere for a Saints landing, burning timeouts, and customarily trying like an unprepared staff. They masked all these errors through the seven-game successful streak, however they crept again in over the ultimate 4 weeks of the season. The too many males penalty on Saturday evening was a pleasant homage to theme of this season.
–I’m not an enormous sports activities man so assist me out right here: Shouldn’t RB1 win a race to the sting towards a 260-pound defensive finish?
Appears like the reply is sure. Sure he ought to.
–Clearly, it’s sports activities, and humorous issues occur. However in case you didn’t know that this recreation was over the second that the Patriots elevated De’Vante Bausby and D’Angelo Ross from the follow squad, then you definately certain are one cheery optimist.
That’s to not dump on two gamers making a dwelling within the NFL. In no way. Nevertheless it was indicative of the full lack of depth in that secondary. (On the identical time, I’m undecided how totally different the scoreboard seems to be if Jalen Mills performs each snap in that one.)
So it was sort of inevitable that this gap would present as much as damage the Patriots. I simply didn’t anticipate it to be so powerful to observe — on back-to-back performs, no much less!
— NFL (@NFL) January 16, 2022
(Josh. Man. Pay attention. How are you going to try this to a person carrying No. 13? How? Impolite.)
Coaches used the time period “stick-to-itiveness” when speaking about Devin Singletary’s late-season emergence. The extra opps he obtained, the extra he took benefit. Josh Allen might run the present & dictate phrases offensively together with his arm/legs/mind combo, however #26 is creating stability. #Bills pic.twitter.com/e0ZtYGAAlz
— Mike Giardi (@MikeGiardi) January 16, 2022
Having the extra respectable jersey variety of 39 didn’t assist Ross on that one, although.
–Josh Allen mentioned his first landing move was supposed to be a throwaway.
— NFL (@NFL) January 16, 2022
I don’t consider him. I’ve seen Josh Allen launch passes into the gang. This was not a type of passes.
–In all probability the lone success story of the evening was Kendrick Bourne. He impressed in his first season with the Patriots, and he had by far the perfect recreation of any Patriot on this one. He was focused eight occasions, catching seven passes for 77 yards and two touchdowns. He drew what ought to have been a 15-yard facemask penalty, and he deftly dodged a flying cylindrical object gifted to him by the amiable Payments followers close to the tip zone. You may’t train that sort of poise.
–One different optimistic: The sport seemed cool. The clouds of breath seemed pretend, like if you created a chilly climate recreation on Madden again within the day. Good evening for breath clouds, child.
Oh yeah. That’s the great things.
–Wait, this man didn’t make a GIF that simply reveals folks respiratory, did he?
Yup. He did. Named it “respiratory dot gif,” too.
–That was numerous phrases. Near 2,000 of them, this little handy-dandy phrase counter tells me. In case you learn them — and in case you learn any of the opposite phrases over the previous yr — then thanks for that. I can’t think about having to learn one thing I wrote. Looks as if a complete factor.
However we’re not ending right here with phrases. We’re ending with photos — shifting photos that might sum up this recreation higher than I ever might.
Yup. That certain does say all of it.
You may e-mail Michael Hurley or discover him on Twitter @michaelFhurley.