5 big takeaways from Patriots’ 20-17 loss vs Commanders

A week after their defeat against the Miami Dolphins, the New England Patriots took on the Washington Commanders at Gillette Stadium on Sunday.

It was a competitive game throughout, though not for any significant level of skill from either team. Ultimately, Washington prevailed after a late-game drive from the Patriots ended in a turnover with less than two minutes to go, finalizing their victory in a 20-17 scoreline.

But even amidst their continued struggles, the Patriots still showed their class as an organization and care for the community. Before Sunday’s game, the team held a tribute to honor the victims of the recent shooting in Lewiston, Maine.

Here are five big takeaways from the game.

Mac Jones continues to underperform

Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

The Patriots scored 29 points two weeks ago against the Buffalo Bills in a game that surprised most who watched it. It was the most points they had scored in a game this season and the first time they had scored at least 20 since Week 2 against the Philadelphia Eagles.

But against such a daunting opponent, there was hope that the offense had finally woken up from the slumber they had started the season with. Two weeks later, that game looks more and more like an odd outlier in an otherwise lackluster season.

Quarterback Mac Jones was once again solid but ultimately unimpressive, going 24-of-44 for 220 yards, a touchdown and an interception. While he was able to make a few consistent throws in short and medium yardage, he was unable to connect on the deep ball despite multiple attempts, including on this pass that went through wide receiver Jalen Reagor’s hands near the end of the third quarter.

Jones had the second-worst average air yards differential (-4.4) of any quarterback in the league on Sunday as a reflection of his inability to connect on the deep ball, according to Next Gen Stats. The coaching staff recognized this throughout the game and pivoted in the completely opposite direction on long downs to try and generate some offensive momentum.

If New England’s offense performs this way, even against a middle-of-the-pack Washington defensive unit, they will be bound to pick within the first five selections in the 2024 NFL draft.

Overall offensive struggles endure

Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

But even though Jones wasn’t doing his best Tom Brady impression on Sunday, he wasn’t getting any help from the rest of his teammates either. With injuries among the receiving corps and offensive line, Jones was under duress all game long.

Outside of this 64-yard Rhamondre Stevenson touchdown run midway through the second quarter, where Washington’s defensive line parted like the Red Sea, the offense yet again lacked both immediate explosiveness and the time for Jones to create explosive plays.

According to Next Gen Stats, Jones’ 2.38 seconds was the second-lowest time to throw in the league on Sunday. Offensive tackle Trent Brown was out for the contest with an injury, but Washington traded away two pass-rushers last week and Jones still had no time to throw.

Moreover, his receivers dropped multiple balls that would have changed the game. Jones’ throw to Reagor in the second quarter was nearly right on the money and would have resulted in, at minimum, a field goal on a drive that never even reached the red zone.

Then, on the last offensive play of the game, Jones put the ball right on the hands of JuJu Smith-Schuster as New England was attempting to drive downfield within the final two minutes of the game.

The wide receiver took responsibility for the drop postgame.

With wide receivers Kendrick Bourne and DeVante Parker currently injured, the Patriots need others to step up if they want to remain at all competitive. this season.

A secondary full of questions

Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Many were surprised when cornerbacks Myles Bryant and Shaun Wade seemed to get the start on Sunday at outside corner over more established options such as Jack Jones and J.C. Jackson. While the two had played a fair amount earlier in the season, it was while Jones was injured and before the Patriots acquired Jackson from the Los Angeles Chargers.

And neither option truly excelled in the game, either. Wade seemed off the ball at times and Bryant was beaten by Commanders receiver Jahan Dotson for this deep touchdown midway through the third quarter.

And when Jones and Jackson were in the game – Jones sat for the first quarter and Jackson for the first few drives – they weren’t able to make a significant impact on New England’s defense. After the game, neither of them spoke to the media, with Jones leaving the building early, according to Andrew Callahan.

While no Washington receiver tallied more than 75 yards on the day, quarterback Sam Howell threw for 325 total passing yards while only being intercepted once, with the turnover coming at the end of the second half.

A plus on punting

Adam Glanzman/Getty Images
Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

If the Patriots were any good this season, we would be talking about the rookie season that punter Bryce Baringer is having. While he had trouble consistently hitting punts well through the first few weeks of the season, he has quickly found his stride.

A few weeks ago against Buffalo, Baringer had multiple punts downed within the Bill’s 10-yard line that forced them to begin drives deep in their own territory. Last week against Miami, Baringer averaged 53 net yards per punt with one going as long as 63.

And on Sunday, he repeated that performance. Baringer tied the entire Patriots offense in total yards, racking up 327 yards on six attempts for a 54.5 average. Twice he pinned Washington within the 20-yard line, and one punt rolled into the end zone for a touchback.

With the horrendous ineptitude displayed by New England’s offense, Baringer has seen a lot of work this season. In that work, he has shown to be able to flip the field with ease.

That being said, it would be nice to cut down on the punting practice and score some points.

Will the team win again?

Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

With Sunday’s game being yet another loss this season New England could have won if they didn’t continuously shoot themselves in the foot, it may be prudent to look at the remaining games they have on their schedule this season.

Although the team has already played the Dolphins twice as well as the Bills and Philadelphia Eagles once, they still have a strong list of opponents to face heading into Week 10.

Here is the rest of New England’s regular-season schedule:

While some opponents (Colts, Giants, Broncos) on this list are more to New England’s current standard of play than the Dolphins or Chiefs, none of these matchups will guarantee an easy victory.

Considering the plethora of tough defenses they will face and their current lack of offensive production, it may be realistic to expect one to two more victories this season barring an unexpected run.

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Story originally appeared on Patriots Wire