(Photo courtesy of Fansided.com) “Quarterback Mac Jones talking with coaching staff.”
Following the year the New England Patriots finished 10-7 and earned a playoff appearance, the 6-time Super Bowl champs did not have the same level of success in 2022. The Patriots finished 8-9 and were eliminated from the playoff hunt, following a 23-35 Week 18 loss to the division rival Buffalo Bills. So, what went wrong this season? As it would seem, many factors hampered the success of this team.
In the 2022 offseason, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels left the team in order to become the head coach for the Las Vegas Raiders. In need of a play-caller, Bill Belichick decided to hire Matt Patricia and Joe Judge to handle play calling duties. This move was questionable as neither Patricia nor Judge had any experience calling offensive plays in their careers. Patricia was a former defensive coordinator for the Patriots and a former head coach for the Detroit Lions who was fired after two disappointing seasons. On the other hand, Joe Judge was also on the Patriots staff as the special teams and wide receivers coach. He then landed a head coaching job for the New York Giants, but was also fired after two disappointing seasons.
Belichick didn’t officially name an offensive coordinator for the season; however, it was mainly Patricia calling the plays with help from Judge on the sidelines. The offense regressed under this new regime, with second-year quarterback Mac Jones having a sophomore slump as he threw for just 2997 yards, 14 touchdowns, 11 interceptions, on top of an 84.8 passer rating and 65.2% completion percentage in 14 starts. This was a huge drop off from his rookie season where he threw for 3,801 yards, 22 touchdowns, 13 interceptions, with a 92.5 passer rating and 67.6% completion percentage. He had a solid rookie year as he was an effective game manager who leaned on New England’s strong rushing attack and defense.
Jones also missed time this year due to a high ankle sprain he suffered in Week Three which sidelined him for three games. In his absence, rookie backup quarterback Bailey Zappe seemingly played better than Jones. This led to a quarterback controversy where Jones was infamously benched for Zappe in the Monday Night Football game against the Chicago Bears after a rough start. While Zappe did play better, he wasn’t effective during the 33-14 blowout loss. Eventually, Jones regained his job for the rest of the season.
Jones was very inconsistent this year as he often turned the ball over and struggled with his accuracy. However, much of that can be attributed to the incompetence of Patricia’s play-calling. Per StatMuse, the Patriots offense ranked 15th under Josh McDaniels in 2021 which was within the top half of the league. In 2022, the Patriots offense ranked just 26th out of 32 teams.
Another major reason the offense struggled was due to the disappointing play of the offensive line. This was a unit that was ranked by Pro Football Focus as the 9th-best offensive line in 2021. Entering this year, the Patriots traded top guard Shaq Mason to Tampa Bay and let center Ted Karras leave for Cincinnati in free agency. Tackles Trent Brown and Isaiah Wynn struggled all year in pass protection, allowing Jones to get sacked 26 times. Both were also injury prone, which didn’t help at all. They also caused penalties which contributed to the Pats being the 8th most penalized team in football. The play of the offensive line also hampered the run game as well. Only occasional big plays by running backs Rhamondre Stevenson and Damien Harris were able to keep the run game alive. However, on the positive side, first-round draft pick guard Cole Strange had a solid rookie season and showed potential of being a future all-pro.
It also didn’t help that the Patriots had a quiet offseason. Aside from not addressing the offensive line, New England didn’t address wide receiver; while wide receivers Jakobi Meyers, Kendrick Bourne, and Tyquan Thornton are decent pass catchers, they are not a true WR1. Still lacking there, the Patriots will need to address that this offseason.
The defense was one of the few bright spots of this team. Superstar pass rusher Matthew Judon made his fourth straight Pro Bowl, while recording 15.5 sacks. Rookie cornerback Jack Jones blossomed his first year as he earned a 74.7 grade by Pro Football Focus. One of the few negatives was cornerback Myles Bryant, who struggled in the secondary and often gave up big plays in coverage. Overall, the Patriots defense ranked 11th this season.
Uncertainties at quarterback, wide receiver and offensive line are glaringly obvious. With a new offensive coordinator in Bill O’Brien, the Patriots will have a lot to address this offseason.