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The Ups and Downs In The Patriots' Battle In Lambeau

Updated: Aug 22, 2023

Before going ahead with the rest of this article, I had to make a mention of Isaiah Bolden. It was just horrifying to see his injury, and I am glad he's stable and out of the hospital. I am sending prayers, as is everyone in Pats Nation and across the league, for his speedy recovery. Moments like this make us cherish the life that we live and the people that make it wonderful.

The Patriots won an intense battle in Lambeau, one that gave a much better idea of what is to come in 2023. There were numerous encouraging signs for the squad, but still a lot to work on. In a game filled with ups and downs, here's what went well and what didn't for the Patriots.

The Ups For The Patriots

Mac Jones

Mac didn't finish with the most flashy stat line, but he had a decent outing, throwing 6-9 for 52 yards (albeit a fumble) in just over a quarter of work. He showed signs of having addressed a number of issues that plagued him in 2022. He was extremely poised in the pocket, making quick decisions, sharp and accurate throws, and not putting the ball in risky places.

He showed aggression and willingness to go down the field multiple time, and had Devante Parker made a slightly better read on an early dime from Jones, that stat line could have looked very different. There were times when he made too quick a call - but the offensive line rarely gave him the time to make multiple reads. Furthermore, on the fumble, while Mac does need to try to go down on his own accord in situations like this, Kingsley Enagbare essentially was given a clear path to him by the line.

It wasn't perfect, but Mac helped tighten his grip on the starting job, and instill some confidence in the offense. He even showed his mettle in the red zone, as well as the ability to run when needed. Whether the offensive line can improve enough to bring the best out of Mac's evolution, however, remains to be seen.

Kendrick Bourne

It was great seeing 84 get more involved in the offense. Last year, he was extremely underutilized, despite showing promise when he would get on the field. He was never really able to find a rhythm, in what ended up as a very disappointing 2022 campaign for him. Early against Green Bay, though, the connection between him and Mac, one that proved to be a big part of the Patriots' journey to the 2021 playoffs, was strong.

The first offensive drive started with two quick darts from Jones to Bourne, the second of which was in a very tight window and ended up being a very impressive catch. Later in the game, Bourne hauled in a 17-yard pass from Jones on what ended up being an impressive catch in traffic. He had no real mental lapses throughout the progression of his time on the field, and can use this game as something to build on.

Jalen Mills

Both against Houston and Green Bay, Mills showed that he has taken to the safety position like a duck to water. Nothing really got past him, he closed on coverage, and made meaningful hits. Of course, in the Houston game, he had the memorable interception, but against Green Bay, he was simply solid as a rock.

The Patriots have excellent depth at safety, but in Mapu, Peppers, Dugger, and Phillips, they have a bunch of safeties whose skillsets fill that versatile S/LB type role. While Mills certainly is far from a shabby hitter, his coverage instincts, both natural and built-up from his time as a CB, allow him to fill the traditional coverage safety role that the Patriots need. Replacing McCourty isn't going to be easy, it may be impossible, but Mills does have the skill set to play a similar role, as well as near veteran-level experience.

Honorable Mention: Kayshon Boutte, for a really impressive touchdown reception to bring the Patriots back into it and Bryce Baringer, for two ridiculous punts.

The Downs For The Patriots

Offensive Line

I had half a mind to make this ALL three downs. Klemm's leadership, relative to Patricia, is going to eventually make its impact on this unit, but it will take time. Furthermore, the game was proof that coaching may not be enough to completely fix the issues up front. Neither Mac nor Zappe had much time at all to throw the ball, and Mac in particular was harassed by the first unit of Green Bay's pass rushing attack.

While the entire unit was off, tackle was where the most problems were. The Patriots' offensive proceedings started with a false start from Trent Brown, which could have compromised yet another red-zone situation if Mac Jones didn't follow up the penalty with a pair of great throws to Kendrick Bourne.

With Reiff moved to guard, Sidy Sow played at right tackle, and was clearly overmatched - the most glaring example being on a Mac Jones sack in the second drive of the game. The strip sack that concluded Mac's time in the game happened because of a breakdown by Andre Steuber, a 2022 sixth-round draft pick. Other than a couple of longer rushes created by running back brilliance, there wasn't much going in the running game either.

The Patriots need to either find the best of their right tackle options - Reiff, Sow, Anderson, McDermott - or be creative and move Onwenu to right tackle given their depth at guard, or find someone at the trade deadline. Yesterday's level won't cut it.

Run Defense

No one player was responsible here, the problems were on both the first and second levels. While the statline was good but not amazing for Green Bay - 119 yards on 29 carries and a TD - the true efficacy of their carries was more telling.

Green Bay only had a couple of double-digit rushes, nothing more than 14 yards. None of their rushing yards resulted from the occasional breakoff run. Rather, Green Bay wore down New England with steady 4-5 yard rushes, rarely getting trapped for negative yards, and were able to use effective first-down runs to create favorable situations in their drives.

Out of 29 carries, eight resulted in first downs and one resulted in a touchdown, but almost all of them were meaningful for the Packers. The players are absolutely there to address this, but the Patriots need to scheme for both teams with good RB attacks and teams with a dual-threat QB - or particularly dangerous teams like Philly that have both.

Honorable Mentions - Was considering mentioning Christian Gonzalez, who had a couple of miscommunications, but he did have a deflection that led to a pick - which was taken wait because of a non-existent PI call. Same with Malik Cunningham, but it was his first ever game action as a WR.


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