Mac Jones, Rhamondre Stevenson and Jakobi Meyers each took the rap for the disastrous final game. But the blame must go much deeper than just them.

Mac Jones, Rhamondre Stevenson and Jakobi Meyers each took the rap for the disastrous final game.  But the blame must go much deeper than just them.

One of the qualities I admire most in a person is responsibility. Show me someone willing to take the blame for their mistakes and the mistakes of the team as a whole and I’ll show you a winner. As Weymouth Public School teaching legend and scare experimenter Alma Driscoll used to put it, “When you point a finger at someone, three fingers point back at you.” Admittedly, it’s somewhat skillful and discriminates against the likes of Johnny Tremain, Captain Hook and Jason Pierre-Paul, but it’s still a good rule of thumb. (Also a discriminatory phrase, but whatever.) Which she usually delivered while pointing a judgmental, bony, liver-stained finger at me and my friends. So I appreciate the willingness of Mac Jones, Rhamondre Stevenson, and Jakobi Meyers to fall on their swords for the last game of goat wrangling.

And you could argue that at least two of those three were the least of the Patriots’ problems. Jones was just 13-for-31 and 155 yards against the defense that has the highest passer rating against (100.1) and third-highest completion percentage (68.0%). But Stevenson and Meyers get off easy, given that not only have they been the most reliable offensive weapons all year, but what they did in the game:

But still, all three stood before the world, looked the human race in its collective eyes and said it’s all on them. Which is good. Not good enough to get them into the playoffs. That ship sailed sank the moment Chandler Jones made the most improbable and inexplicable touchdown recovery in NFL history. The non-scoop and score. But it counts for something. In a karmic sense, if nothing else. Especially on a team where excuses are one of the deadly sins Belichick would use as tableaux if he ever decided to go on a serial killing spree:

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And because this franchise is built on accountability, on identifying problems big and small and addressing them with a cold, objective, analytical eye, without regard for anyone’s feelings in order to find a solution, this is the perfect time to find a solution . editions of the last piece. In fact, of all the plays leading up to that play.

And I think I’ve isolated the source. It wasn’t Jones, Stevenson or Meyers. It is captured here, in this image:

Winslow Townson. Shutterstock images.

Ultimately, and I can’t imagine ever getting pushback from Belichick on this, the problem is the coach. We can and should hold the above players accountable, as they are. But that brain chip didn’t just happen in a vacuum. It was just the latest in a long and unbroken line of dumbassery that has continued all year. It started in OTAs in the spring and has shown no signs of improvement, despite their next game being Christmas Eve.

False starts. Game lags. Timeouts were burned to prevent game delays. Dozens upon dozens of plays where it’s a race against time, and just getting snapped up is like trying to defuse a bomb before the timer hits 0:00. Too many men in a crowd. Not enough men on the field. A complete lack of situational awareness. Veteran players cut in for an extra yard instead of going out of bounds as time runs out in the half. Max protection calls where blitzes still come in unblocked. Too many to list. And if there was one clean game all year that wasn’t marred by these unforced errors, I have no memory of it.

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And just because I’m using a photo of Matt Patricia and Joe Judge, it’s in no way limited to the offense. In any other season, can you imagine a shot being blocked by a free rusher because two veterans like Jabrill Peppers and Adrian Phillips are watching and gesturing to each other as the ball is snapped?

This has not been about one play. There has been a breakdown at team level. The latest absurd attempt at a hook-and-ladder game was symptomatic of a larger problem that began months ago. It’s like the “Broken Window” concept of a society that says if you let windows break without fixing them, or graffiti, or people jump swing styles without consequences, then people get the idea that no one is in charge, their crimes escalate and you collapses on a social order.

That is what has happened here. The details haven’t been ironed out, and it’s led to a kind of anarchy, 14 games into the season. The 2022 Patriots offense is tied for 10th in accepted penalties committed. They are tied for 6th place in drives that end in a turnover. They have the 25th shortest average time per drive, despite being a first offense.

They are +31 in point differential, which is 7th best in the league and usually a pretty fair indicator of where you are as a team. But they are .500. Which means they find ways to lose. And Sunday in Vegas was their biggest success story on that front. And example of what a team is capable of when they want it less.

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This is, aside from only the 2009 Patriots, who stand alone in terms of disparity in the Dynasty Era, the most undisciplined team of Belichick’s tenure. Consistent in their unreliability, reliable in their inconsistency. And if we’re going to give credit to superior coaching for everything they’ve done since Pete Carroll was shown the door in January 2000 (Note: I do), then we have to admit there’s a disconnect here between staff and players. Despite Jones and Patricia’s tender moment:

The bottom line is that the system is broken. The Patriots must determine who violated it to such an extent that a game could end in such a wildly improvised, undisciplined and chaotic manner. Personally, I say the problem runs deep, tracing back to the day the offense was put in the hands of two non-offensive coaches who have not earned the players’ trust. That’s your problem lady. And fixing that is priority 1-99 the minute the regular season ends. Because it has already cost us a play-off.

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