What’s next for the New England Patriots?
I’m just going to start this off by saying that this season didn’t end the way I was hoping for, but I’m also not completely surprised how everything turned out. Regardless, it’s time to break down exactly what went wrong for the Patriots leading up to their Wild Card loss to the Tennessee Titans.
It’s no secret that the offense had struggled through most of the season. Luckily, the defense was able to carry them to a 12-4 record and an AFC East title, but that still wasn’t enough to earn a first-round bye. It was the first time that the Patriots have had to play in Wild Card Weekend since the 2009 season, and unfortunately, it ended with the same result.
What Went Wrong?
The Patriots had no answer for Derrick Henry. This season’s leading rusher picked up right where he left off, going off for 182 yards and a touchdown on 34 carries. The Titans had a touchdown drive where Henry gained every single yard. While the Patriots struggled to contain the running game, they did a pretty good job of limiting Ryan Tannehill. His stat line finished at 8/15 passing, 72 yards, a touchdown, and an interception. The issue is that those completions came at some very big moments in the game.
As has been the case all season, the receiving group for the Patriots struggled to generate much of anything. Brady threw for 209 yards, but just 68 yards to his receivers. James White had 62 receiving yards on his own, and Ben Watson was second on the team with 38 yards. Sony Michel had an average performance, rushing for 61 yards on 14 carries, but with the way the passing game has been, average isn’t good enough. In the end, the offense failed to find that chemistry that everyone had been waiting for.
Also, the Patriots lost the special teams battle. While there were no blocks, misses or big returns, Brett Kern managed to pin the Patriots inside their own 20-yard line on four of his six punts, including landing one at the New England 1-yard line late in the fourth quarter. It’s a well-known fact that Bill Belichick prides his teams on their ability to win the special teams battles, so to get beat in that aspect during their biggest game of the season definitely won’t sit well with him.
What Went Right?
It wasn’t all bad for New England. For what it’s worth, Tom Brady played pretty well. While he didn’t have huge passing stats, he made some throws that proved he still has a strong arm and the accuracy to fit the football through the tightest of windows.
The Patriots secondary played well. Duron Harmon had yet another interception, and Stephon Gilmore held A.J. Brown to just 4 receiving yards. Allowing only 76 total passing yards is practically unheard of, but the success of the Titans running game meant that it didn’t matter in the end.
What Happens With Tom Brady?
It’s been well documented that Tom Brady will be a free agent this offseason. Rumours of Brady leaving New England have been floating around for a few years, but they’ve never felt as real as they do right now. Personally, I don’t see it happening. There are a lot of reasons being thrown around for why he might want to leave, but not many of them hold much value.
Dealing with a new OC
When Josh McDaniels inevitably leaves New England to become a head coach this offseason, will Brady want to deal with a new offensive coordinator coming in? Well, if Brady were to leave the Patriots he’d be dealing with a new coordinator anyways so this argument doesn’t really make sense.
Brady wants to get paid
After years of taking a pay cut to stay in New England and allow that money to be spent on the team around him, Brady is reportedly not going to be taking a hometown discount this time around. Belichick is infamous for moving on from players when the pricetag becomes too high, but there has never been another player like Tom Brady. It’s unclear what a fair price for Brady would be right now. While he is definitely the GOAT, he’ll be 43 when next season starts and his numbers this season definitely won’t help his cause. However, I’m on the side of paying this man whatever he wants because I would rather have my head Gronk-spiked off a brick wall than see Brady in another uniform.
Brady and Belichick feud
When the Patriots were forced to choose between Brady or Jimmy G, it allegedly caused a pretty big rift between Brady, Belichick and Robert Kraft. While it resulted with Brady staying put, and the Patriots winning a Super Bowl the following season, there are still reports suggesting that the relationship between the coach and quarterback has never recovered. Well, watch this video and try to tell me you believe that.
It took me a long time to finally admit it, but Gronk isn’t coming back. The Patriots tried to get through this season without a true #1 tight end, but clearly it wasn’t working. There was no big redzone target for Brady, and the run blocking definitely suffered too. Luckily, there are a few tight ends set to hit the free agent market this offseason, and I have my eyes on Eric Ebron. Depending on the price tag, the Patriots might be better off filling this need through the draft, where Cole Kmet from Notre Dame would be a pretty nice pickup.
Brady still has the talent, but now he needs talent around him. They need true elite-level receiver, and they need one ASAP. Again, they could look for this through the draft, but they just went that route with N’Keal Harry. Luckily, there’s a superstar in Cleveland who has been telling just about every opponent to trade for him this year. That’s right, it’s time for New England to pull the trigger and get OBJ. Give Brady a deep threat, open up the middle of the field for Edelman to do his thing, and all of a sudden this offense is back to being what we’ve been accustomed to seeing from the Patriots. Who says no?