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Three Up, Three Down - Which Patriots Stood Out In Third Straight Loss?

Updated: Oct 17, 2023

Panic mode continues in Foxborough, with the Patriots losing their third consecutive game on Sunday against the Raiders, in a game that was much closer than the previous two. However, the 17-21 loss is still a loss. Here's what did and didn't go right in Vegas.

The Positives

Kendrick Bourne

In a season where the Patriots' wideouts have been inconsistent and disappointed, Bourne has been an exception and quite the bright spot after a 2022 season where he was extremely underutilized. At 28 receptions for 307 yards, Bourne leads the team in receiving, and his 10-catch, 89-yard performance against Vegas was a big reason the Patriots had a fighting chance.

Bourne continues to be able to make big plays, get yards after the catch, run reliable routes, and have sure hands. He created the Patriots' biggest play of the game, and continued to show why he's been the number one target for the team. Out of 11 targets that Mac threw Bourne's way, Kendrick caught 10 of them, and Jones and Bourne are getting close to the type of chemistry they had in 2021 - or at least as close as they can get with this current offense.

A lot will need to change about this team at the end of the season. Bourne isn't on or anywhere close to that list.

Rhamondre Stevenson

To some level, Stevenson will continue to be limited by the offensive line in front of him. However, the running game took a step forward today, and while both backs were impressive, Stevenson made his RB1 status very clear. While his 10 carries for 46 yards were nothing flashy, he was solid. He ran for three first downs, strung together some solid runs in big moments, and scored a touchdown.

His talents as a pass catcher continue to be valuable for the team as well, and his 5 catches were quite useful for the offense. While he's got ways to go to get to his 2022 level, he's progressing in that direction. Meanwhile, Zeke is becoming more reliable as a backup, and the Patriots are finding new ways to use him (one of which was taken back due to a penalty). The next step for the group is to break off more big plays.

Jabrill Peppers

The Patriots' safeties are arguably their best position group, and in the last couple of games, Jabrill Peppers is really starting to elevate from just another contributor in the group to a real game-changer. When he was signed last year, he presented the threat of a versatile safety who can hit like a linebacker, and with his hit that was heard across the league, one that led to a critical interception, that potential was glaringly obvious.

He had seven tackles, and his combination of explosive, clean hitting, and great coverage instincts helped the defense tremendously on Sunday. The latent skills have been there as early as his time at Michigan, but he's now been able to string together multiple good games and is looking on track to have a 2020-esque season, perhaps a career-best one.

Honorable Mention: JC Jackson, Bryce Baringer, Ezekiel Elliot

The Negatives

Devante Parker

The Patriots traded for Parker for a reason. He's got the size and ability to catch 50:50 balls, as well as the versatility to be able to both go down the field and make short/medium-range catches. However, it's extremely clear right now that he's not showing the capability to be an offensive leader.

He's not winning one-on-one battles, he's not gaining separation and his hands have not been reliable in 2023. Against the Raiders, he had all of one catch for seven yards, to contribute to a dismal total of 13 receptions for 136 yards. Even worse, in the last 4 games, after a pretty good showing against Miami, he has had 7 receptions for 79 yards.

Today, he was a nonfactor for most of the game, and when given an opportunity to essentially win the game for the team on a perfectly thrown pass from Mac Jones, he dropped it in a drive that ultimately resulted in the game-sealing safety. Worse than the missed catch, he failed to take accountability when given a chance. Fresh off a contract extension, Parker needs to play WAY better moving forward to justify keeping his spot on the team.

Offensive Line

The line continues to be a recurring issue, and their struggles have continued against Vegas. As expected, Maxx Crosby ran amok, and the tackles continued to struggle. While the running game was improved, a lot of that was on the backs.

Jones got sacked three times and hurried a fair bit as well, and the lack of pass protection continues to cause rushed decisions on his part. Penalties were also a tremendous issue in this game, and while there were also a number of critical defensive penalties, there were six offensive penalties in the game for the Patriots, which continued to put them in disadvantageous positions.

The hold by Henry nullified what would have been an extremely important TD, and his struggles as a blocking tight end continue (albeit having some pass-catching success). Vedarian Lowe, and to a lesser extent Trent Brown (who had a penalty as well that was declined), have continued to struggle on the edges, and the rookies Mafi and Sow, while they have promise, are showing some of their inexperience.

While the line has some long-term issues, they'll benefit tremendously from getting Cole Strange and Michael Onwenu back, and right tackle is the main position they need to target moving forward.

Davon Godchaux - And The Rest Of The Interior DL

Godchaux is really representing the interior defensive line in the realm of: where are they? The talent - Barmore, Godchaux, Guy, Ekuale - hasn't been matching the output. Edges are doing the heavy lifting when it comes to pass rush, and with Judon out for the foreseeable future of this season, the rest of the line needs to step up.

Brian Hoyer really shouldn't have had as easy of a time in the pocket as he did, but no real pass rush definitely helped him settle into the cadence of the game. Right now, the pressure is simply not coming from that wing, and in stopping the run, a lot of the tackles are coming from linebackers and safeties.

Godchaux was mentioned specifically because of his cap hit - his 2-year, 15-million-dollar contract has a certain expectation that goes with it. He proved his value last year, but it's up to him to reach his own baseline in 2023, especially if this team wants to keep things respectable against the more powerful offenses in the league - a group that the Raiders are quite far from.

Honorable Mentions: Myles Bryant, Tyquan Thornton, Hunter Henry

Note: Mac Jones wasn't included in either list. The interception and safety were largely due to bad decisions on his part (the safety of course was also a result of bad protection and debilitating penalties). However, he made some good throws and manufactured the Patriots' two TD drives after a considerable scoring hiatus. Furthermore, he made an excellent throw to Devante Parker that could have won the game but was dropped.


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