A hopeful field goal drive to start the game devolved into one of the worst offensive performances of the season for the Patriots. They only mustered two field goals against a Colts defense that ranked as the third-worst in the NFL in points allowed heading into the game.
Meanwhile, on the defensive side of the ball, the unit somehow managed to overcome missing team captain and linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley, along with other star playmakers, to hold the Colts’ top-10 scoring offense to only 10 points.
Here are the studs and duds from the game on Sunday:
Mac Jones: DUD
Mac Jones has made some bad throws this season, but this might have been his worst in the three seasons that he’s been with the Patriots.
Fire Mac Jones into the sun. This is the worst throw of his career pic.twitter.com/0upOL2qNLn
— Ben Brown 🌻 (@BenBrownPL) November 12, 2023
At the end of the day, Jones hasn’t gotten the job done in New England, and he deserves blame for that. But the Patriots have also failed him at every turn when it comes to putting the right talent around him to be successful.
He looks like a broken quarterback at this point that can’t even execute the basic throwing fundamentals to make what should have been a lay-up touchdown pass to tight end Mike Gesicki. It’s a sad turn of events for a player that was filled with so much hope when he was drafted to New England in 2021.
Chad Ryland: DUD
It has been an up-and-down season mostly for Patriots’ rookie kicker Chad Ryland. That continued on Sunday with the fourth-round draft pick whiffing on a 35-yard field goal attempt.
The Patriots’ decision to take Ryland where they did in the draft was always a head-scratcher, especially with Nick Folk already on the roster. It’s a decision that has blown up in their faces in the short-term.
As for long-term, there’s always a chance that Ryland hits his stride and becomes the kicker the Patriots hoped he would be in the NFL. But it hasn’t looked good so far for the 24-year-old specialist.
Rhamondre Stevenson and Ezekiel Elliott: STUDs
There was plenty that went wrong for the Patriots, but one area where they clearly excelled at was in the running game. Rhamondre Stevenson and Ezekiel Elliott looked like a terrifying duo in the offensive backfield with plenty of angry runs against the Colts.
And it worked to perfection.
The Patriots compiled 167 rushing yards in the game on only 36 attempts. An argument could be made that the offense should have leaned even heavier on the legs of their two running backs.
Stevenson had a team-high 20 carries for 88 yards, while Elliott added 53 more yards on 13 carries. Both running backs were also active in the receiving department as well.
OL pass protection: STUD
This felt like a tale of two offensive lines in this game.
Let’s start with the bad, which was the Patriots’ offensive line pass protection. To put it simply, it wasn’t there.
Mac Jones was eating grass all afternoon against an aggressive Colts’ defensive front. They sacked Jones five times and had him seeing ghosts for most of the game.
The quarterback play desperately needs to improve, but if the pass protection continues to struggle, the Patriots will always have issues no matter who is under center. On Sunday, the team was missing Trent Brown, and Conor McDermott also left early with an injury.
OL run-blocking: STUD
It wasn’t all bad from the offensive line for the Patriots.
While they flunked in pass protection, they were formidable throughout the game in run-blocking. That effort aided in strong efforts turned in by both Rhamondre Stevenson and Ezekiel Elliott running the football.
It’s at least a positive the team can build on considering the Patriots had struggled getting their run game going up until this point. If they can run the ball more consistently, it would open up more opportunities to throw downfield.
Bailey Zappe: DUD
This was an opportunity for Bailey Zappe to show the Patriots that he’s ready to take the reins as the starter over Mac Jones. It was there for the taking, and all he needed to do was give the team a reason to make the change.
But then he stepped onto the field for a potential game-winning drive and threw a bad interception and ended any comeback hopes for the Patriots.
Jones isn’t the answer in New England, but neither is Zappe. Both proved that on Sunday with their failure to execute successfully with the game on the line.
Demario Douglas: STUD
Demario Douglas was the diamond in the rough that coach Bill Belichick somehow spotted in the 2023 NFL draft. The sixth-round pick has shot up to the top of the depth chart for a Patriots team struggling with injuries and lack of quality talent at wide receiver.
He had a career-high performance against the Colts with six catches for 84 yards in the game. After losing Jakobi Meyers, Douglas has been the lone bright spot for the Patriots.
He could do some serious damage if paired alongside a legitimate No. 1 outside threat at receiver next season.
Shaun Wade: STUD
Shaun Wade deserves some credit for the Patriots’ decision to bench Jack Jones for a second straight game. He stepped up and made plays in Sunday’s game against the Colts, even notching a key tackle for a loss.
There’s hope Wade can continue improving in the defensive backfield, but the most important part is the fact that he shows up every day. He keeps his head down and goes to work, and that effort earned him the opportunity to notch a second consecutive start under his belt.
Earlier in the week, Patriots cornerbacks coach Mike Pellegrino suggested fans start asking about what Wade did right instead of what Jones did wrong. It appears that he was right in doing so.
Myles Bryant: STUD
Patriots cornerback Myles Bryant is another player in the defensive backfield that deserves credit for a strong effort against the Colts. The veteran defensive back came away with a pop-up interception that kept the Patriots alive early in the second half.
Myles Bryant secures the @Patriots INT!
— NFL (@NFL) November 12, 2023
It’s plays like this one that instills both hope and frustration in fans regarding this Patriots team. The defense constantly puts the offense in a winning position, but the unit fails them nearly every time out.
Bryant’s interception was just one of many great defensive plays that couldn’t save the Patriots on Sunday.