It’s the NFL’s fault that the Patriots are back

By Brendan Beauregard, Assistant Sports Editor

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Last season, it seemed the New England Patriots had finally fallen back to Earth. New England missed the playoffs for the first time in 20 years and saw franchise icon and former Patriots starting quarterback Tom Brady win the Super Bowl with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

2021 had every possibility of being another transitional season for New England. Potentially, the team would start a rookie at quarterback, have a below-average offense, and win enough games to not be in the top 10 in the following NFL Draft again.  

All of that was the ultimate fantasy of the entire NFL. But that was just a dream. Unlike how the Emperor somehow returned in Star Wars, the NFL knows exactly how the Patriots returned and it’s because of the NFL alone.

With the majority of the league not having much cap room during the 2021 free agency period, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and co. went on the offensive. They signed former Baltimore Raven outside linebacker Matthew Judon whose 12.5 sacks puts him third in the league per ESPN

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New England double dipped in the tight end pool and snagged Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith––signings that have clearly paid off, with Henry currently being tied for first in touchdown receptions by a tight end with seven according to ESPN. As well as getting overperforming wide receiver Kendrick Bourne with his 42 catches, 623 receiving yards, and five touchdowns.

Perhaps the greatest off-season addition to the Patriots––and worst decision by the NFL––came at the 2021 NFL Draft. Sitting at the 15th overall pick, New England took University of Alabama quarterback Mac Jones.

Jones was the fifth quarterback selected during the draft per Pro Football Reference. Some draft pundits said that while his accuracy was eye-catching, his potential ranged anywhere from a backup to a so-so starter. In other words, he wasn’t going to amount to anything.

The somehow destined for mediocrity Jones so far ranks first out of all rookie quarterbacks in wins, completion percentage (also is third out of all quarterbacks), touchdown passes, and passing yards per StatMuse. Does all of that sound like a backup potential quarterback?

Sure, New England didn’t have the best of starts to the 2021 season. The Patriots lost winnable games to the Miami Dolphins, Buccaneers, and Dallas Cowboys where if one play went New England’s way in all three games, they’d be victorious.

Since the Dallas game brought New England’s record to a lousy 2-4, the Patriots have since stormed their way back and up to the apex of the American Football Conference––having won seven straight games and an average score being 32-10 Patriots per ESPN.

The latest win, a 14-10 triumph on the road Monday night against division rival Buffalo Bills, may be the best out of the seven so far. The freezing temperature in Buffalo made a wicked partnership with wind gusts up to 50 miles per hour––significantly impacting the passing game of both teams.

What did New England do with that rare and wild wind? They ran the ball again and again and again. Out of the Patriots’ 49 plays, 46 were runs––with New England’s lone touchdown coming on running back Damien Harris’ 64-yard scamper.

It’s simply ridiculous that in today’s NFL where the ball is thrown here, there, and everywhere, a team can still play old-school football from a century ago and run on 94-percent of its plays. Along with the quarterback position, arguably the most important position in football, having almost zero impact.

Judon put it best after the game about New England’s offensive performance Monday night and Jones’ contribution.

“Hats off to the offense really besides Mac,” Judon said postgame via NBC Sports Boston. “He really didn’t do nothing.” Preach it, Mr. Judon.

When it was Jones’ turn to take the podium, he praised the New England offensive line and running back, as well as commented on the conditions.

“Just a crazy game to be part of,” Jones said during the postgame press conference. “It was a weird day but at the end of the day, you get more points than the other team and it’s a great day.”

The rookie quarterback speaks the truth in many ways. Yes, it turned out to be a great day for New England to secure a win, but it was a great day for another reason. Monday night proved a new era is starting for the team that dominated the NFL for 20 years, and all New England needed was a year to reload to come roaring back up the mountain.

Congratulations to the 31 other NFL teams. You waited decades for the Patriots to no longer be the Patriots and you only let it last for a year. Now, New England is back where it’s been since 2001, and that’s contending for the Lombardi trophy.