It’s up to Bill Belichick to fix the Patriots – and fast


“We do good enough things to be competitive,” Belichick said on Monday. “We just need to be more consistent.”

Bill Belichick walks off the field after a 33-24 loss to the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium on January 09, 2022 in Miami Gardens, Florida. Photo by Mark Brown / Getty Images

By his own admission, Bill Belichick had yet to move past Sunday’s loss in Miami, so preparations for Saturday’s wild card contest in Buffalo didn’t really begin until he appeared in the media on Monday morning. normally attended. But half-century experience in pro football has made him aware of what matters in his 44th playoff game as head coach.

“The game will be determined by how well we prepare, play and coach,” he said during his weekly spot on WEEI.

uh oh.

If he is right, his patriots are in big trouble.

There’s almost no other way to look at it after last month, when a team that went off steam in its bye week as winners of seven in a row has since faced legitimate competition three times – and three times in a row. The measure outweighed in every encounter the criterion: He’s started every game poorly. Their execution has been brutal in large places. And the other sideline too often seems to be a strategic step forward.

Ultimately, it all reflects on Belichick, and so it’s up to him to fix it over the next six days, or else the Pats will crash out of the playoffs and risk souring what was largely believed to be a season-confirming season. as seen.

“We do good enough things to be competitive,” Belichick said on Monday. “We just need to be more consistent.”

Indeed, the Patriots remain competitive. Although they lost three of their last four, in each game they were within one point of entering the last three minutes of regulation. In each of those games, if they had managed to come up with a defensive stop, their offense would have had the time needed to complete the return.

But just as in Week 15 in Indianapolis and Week 16 loss against Buffalo, the Patriots were scuffled in Miami on Sunday, their inconsistency still dug them too deep in a hole, starting with the first property of the evening.

The Dolphins made the opening drive on Sunday and covered 77 yards, with neither an imperfection nor a negative run. The 7-0 lead was doubled in the Patriots’ third play when Xavian Howard intercepted Mack Jones and returned for a touchdown.

This left New England 14–0 at the end of the first quarter, the margin it lagged behind Indianapolis, when the Patriots’ first possession covered 10 yards on nine attempted snaps, and the second resulted in one. There was a blocked punt that was recovered. in the end zone. The least-damaging start of the three games actually came against the Bills, when the Pats started with regular three-and-out before Buffalo worked their way up to pay. At least then it was only 7-0 (albeit on the way to 20-7).

Overall in the first round of all three setbacks in this slide, the Patriots are knocked out 35-0. It’s about a team that isn’t ready to play – or, at least, the opponent wasn’t ready for what it was about to do. To take the point further, consider this: The Dolphins scored four offensive touchdowns against the Patriots this season. They came into Miami’s first possession of the four halves they played against New England. Coming out of the locker room, Brian Flores scored four goals in defense of Belichick.

Flores was fired on Monday while Belichick was at Buffalo.

“Whether it’s the energy, the focus, the execution,” said special teams captain Matthew Slater after Sunday’s game, “you name it, we’re good at anything in sports to give ourselves a chance to get into the rhythm and stay competitive.” are not. from the very beginning.”

Energy, focus, execution. All problem is gone. Also add discipline and carelessness to the mix. The Dolphins picked up four first downs via penalties on Sunday, and the Pats were the most killers of the eight penalties. Lawrence Guy lined up in the wrong place defensively on a punt, incurring a process penalty that required him to score a field goal. Jalen Mills was whistled for pass interference in the end zone.

Brandon Bolden was flagged inappropriately for possibly unnecessary roughness when he whispered at Miami’s slipping punter during a mock-up, but if he went without a call, it would only be because he got lucky. . Judging by the replays, the intention was there. He converted himself into a torpedo and aimed first at his target helmet. not good.

The eight penalties matched the number of violations the Pats were convicted of at Indy. Again, the Biles’ game looks better in the box score, but there were some killers who were caught in extracurriculars by the offensive line.

Add to those failures a 7-to-1 ratio of cheap and cheap compared to those three games, and the Patriots have repeatedly put themselves at a devastating disadvantage. A team that needs to set conditions has routinely seen its razor-thin margins for error even lower, and when those turnovers are directly converted into points, or promising opportunities are undermined. If given, winning essentially proves impossible.

“It’s been a combination of bad football. One bad game here, and then instead of having one bad game and moving on, we have two good plays and another bad game,” said safety Devin McCourty, who was playing his game on Sunday. An easy interception had fallen from the hands. “We let them score on defense, then we throw a pick six. So it’s a bad combination of complementary football, bad football on either side of the ball.”

At its core, complementary football relies on a team’s ability to play when the moment requires it. And that may be where the Patriots have been at their most disappointing of late. Several times on Sundays they were in a position to change their fortunes with a single play. They never got it. He allowed Tua Tagovailoa to scramble for first downs in both third and six and third and eight – the latter allowing Miami to effectively take the game away. Both of Miami’s field-goal drives were extended by fourth-down penalties, and its second touchdown drive would have been eliminated had it not been for the PI call on Mills, who came on third and seven.

Again, there were painful precedents in the past weeks. The Bills scored a touchdown on the fourth down, then later in the drive to convert the fourth down to third and score on 11. Trailing five points behind, the Pats could have given themselves a shot by failing fourth and one, but instead allowed Josh Allen to go for eight.

Indianapolis went 3-for-3 in fourth place, the two of them coming in just as the Colts had begun flirting and as the game could have been tipped in the Patriots’ way. New England let those opportunities pass, as they let Jonathan Taylor walk their way to a game-cleaning 67-yard touchdown in the final minutes.

The winning teams make those winning plays. They have the capability to deliver on demand. He has that composure which often results in good coaching. But based on the way they’ve played since competition levels increased in December, it’s hard to say whether the Patriots are a winning team, or that they trained well over the past month. It’s far easier to say they’re the frontrunners who captured a sequence of good breaks in the middle of the season while sending the league’s drags.

He won eight out of nine at one point, but that rout through mostly lightweights was booked by a start and a finish that, in retrospect, are dangerously similar. New England started the regular season 1–3. They ended it 1-3. In each case, the win was against a team that ended up with a losing record. The other three games were against teams winning and all losing.

Like last month, the Patriots were within one score at the time and each game had less than three minutes to play.

As they have done until recently, they couldn’t come up with a bigger halt when they needed to.

As he has done until recently, he was battling unfair business. And as he has done until recently, he used to spend most of his time fighting from behind. Belichick’s team signings are supposed to improve over the course of the season, but the comparisons of the first and last quarters of the campaign do little to inspire the belief that the Patriots are actually building. And perhaps even less convincing is that this season goes on for the weekend.

When challenged, as they would be by the Bills, these patriots look sick again and again. He has performed poorly. He has been out-coached.

And if he can’t fix all that by Saturday night, those realities will put an unofficial end to Belichick’s responsibility this season to bear.