The New England Patriots Have Lost Their Magic

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A couple of weeks ago, the New England Patriots were the hottest team in the league, with the top seed in the AFC, and now they have lost their magic. Every team has a fatal flaw, and last week the Indianapolis Colts exposed the Pats fatal flaws on national television. The Buffalo Bills were paying attention, and they attacked those weaknesses. 

A rookie quarterback is the most glaring weakness from the opponent’s perspective. Even though Mac Jones is not your average rookie, and he’s the favorite to be the Offensive Rookie of the Year, teams are still trying to put the game in his hands. The Colts gave away their game plan days ahead of the game. They told the world that they would take away the run and make the Patriots “one-dimensional” by making Jones have to throw. Indy did just that, and it worked. The Patriots were told how they would be attacked, and they had no answers; no magic. 

The New England Patriots Magic Has Disappeared In Recent Weeks

The Patriots Lost Rushing Attack

This week the Bills didn’t stop the run. They did put the Patriots in a position where they had to throw either because it was third-and-long or because they were trailing by two scores. The Bills had the Pats right where they wanted them for most of the game. The passing offense lacks explosive players or anyone who can get open quickly. There are no game-changers that the other team has to take away or double team. The weak passing game makes it challenging to come from behind. Now the league knows this is how you beat the Patriots. What Jones has been able to do as a rookie without explosive weapons has been impressive. But if the Pats are going to make a deep run in the playoffs, he’s going to have to perform magic. 

The Patriots were behind early because their defense, which has been the strength of this team, couldn’t stop the run or the pass. They had no answers for Josh Allen and Isaiah McKenzie. Most teams don’t have an answer for Allen; he’s a star, but not having a solution for McKenzie is baffling. He had 11 back-breaking catches for 125 yards and a TD in the game of his career. Myles Bryant couldn’t keep up with him, and the Bills knew it. They continued to pick on him. The Pats never adjusted or had any magic tricks, which was odd for them. 

The Bills could have left their punter in Buffalo because they never used him. They came close to punting before the half, but Christian Barmore jumped offsides, giving the Bills a fourth and two situation that they converted and led to a momentum-changing TD. The Bills smelled blood in the water and attacked every chance they got.

The defense has been the identity of this team, and they will only go as far as the defense can take them. It’s unclear if the defense is in a slump, facing tougher competition, or has lost their magic like the “Boogeymen” of 2019. 

The Patriots Lost Intensity

The most disturbing thing about the past two weeks is that the Patriots lost their intensity and looked flat on both sides of the ball. It’s been a problem for two weeks now, and it’s bizarre considering the magnitude of the past two games. Intensity has been a staple of the team for two decades. After that horrible loss to the Colts, the team most likely had a punishing week of practice, film sessions, and a massive serving of Bill Belichick’s humble pie. Usually, after a week of that, the team comes out foaming at the mouth and playing like raging bulls. It’s inconceivable that it would happen two weeks in a row.

The offense had no sense of urgency and seemed lethargic. Pass catchers aren’t getting open or even looking back for the ball quick enough. Plays are developing too slowly, like the flea-flicker attempts. By the time the ball is pitched back to Jones, he’s already under siege and has to get rid of it. It’s a shame they have to resort to trickery in the first place.  

The defense was also lethargic and couldn’t generate a pass rush, stop the run or defend the pass. They lacked the intensity they needed. Opponents have focused on stopping Matt Judon from wrecking the game, and he has been quiet lately. That puts pressure on the secondary to cover players longer, and it’s almost impossible to cover anyone in today’s NFL for too long, let alone a top receiver like Stefon Diggs

The Patriots Will Regain Magic

Perhaps we were too early to anoint this team as a Superbowl contender. They are still a playoff team that has momentarily lost their way, but this is the first year in their arc of progression, and that’s a good start if you look at the big picture. It’s a foundational year for this group of free agents and rookies. The Bills are four years into their progression plan, and they have a superstar at quarterback that makes $258 million over six years. They have been Superbowl contenders for the past few years. It says a lot that the Patriots can compete with them already and contend with them for the Division.

 After all the mistakes and inefficiencies, the Patriots still had a chance to win in both games. They nearly mounted a comeback against the Colts, and J.C. Jackson had an interception fall through his hands that could have flipped the game late in the fourth quarter. That inspires confidence that the Patriots will regain their magic.  

The Patriots should still make the playoffs; next week, a win over the Jacksonville Jaguars could clinch. Winning the Division and being a top-seed in the AFC would have been sweet and an incredible achievement, but all they need is a ticket to this playoff party. 

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