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The Mass Media

Recapping the Patriots’ week two win in Pittsburgh

Nelson+Agholor+of+the+New+England+Patriots+makes+a+touchdown+during+the+game+against+Pittsburgh.
Bianca Oppedisano
Nelson Agholor of the New England Patriots makes a touchdown during the game against Pittsburgh. Illustration by Bianca Oppedisano / Mass Media Staff

The New England Patriots are on a winning streak at the start of their 2022 season. Their 17–14 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers this past Sunday was a huge morale boost for a team that, despite going into the game favored to win, were still seen as a team with a high possibility of starting the NFL season with a 0–2 record. Some key takeaways from the game rely heavily on the same storylines of the Patriots’ loss to the Miami Dolphins one week prior, most of which talked about problems with the offense and the lack of wide receiver depth. The offense has lacked a spark that was seen for much of last season, a time in which the Patriots were a number one seed during parts of December, with the team clicking on all cylinders.
With former offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels taking the job of head coach for the Las Vegas Raiders, the Patriots have struggled to find a true offensive coordinator, as well as to figure out what type of offensive schemes are most effective for their team. Former Patriots defensive coordinator and Detroit Lions head coach, Matt Patricia, has been calling plays for Mac Jones and company alongside former Patriots special teams coach and New York Giants head coach Joe Judge. Both Judge and Patricia are offensive assistants under head coach Bill Belichick.
It’s no question that the Patriots are underperforming, and much of that has to do with the recurring story of the benching of wide receiver Kendrick Bourne. Bourne was a reliable receiver for the offense last season, and arguably Mac Jones’ favorite receiver to throw to, catching 55 passes for 800 yards. Since the beginning of this season though, Bourne has only accumulated 26 total snaps, 24 of which came from this past game against the Steelers, as pointed out in Barrett Hodgson of Pats Pulpit’s article, “Patriots vs. Steelers snap counts: Kendrick Bourne sees increased playing time in Week 2” (1).
As a result of Bourne’s decrease in play time, the offense has taken a huge blow, especially now that other receivers have had to step up in Bourne’s place. New acquisition Devante Parker was seen as an upgrade to the Patriots’ receiving core and offensive game plan but has made no impact two weeks into the season, while receiver Nelson Agholor has stepped up, catching six passes for 110 yards and a stellar 44 yard touchdown reception in Sundays’ win over the Steelers (2). Jakobi Meyers has been a key contributor to the Patriots’ offense and is the top receiver two weeks in, continuing his great 2021 campaign with 13 receptions for 150 yards, catching nine passes for 95 yards against Pittsburgh (3).
Of course, the receiving core is not the only problem on offense; Mac Jones’ production on the field has been questionable to say the least. Even though he is only in his second season, Mac is seen as the x-factor to this Patriots’ offense. However, his decision making that has led to interceptions and below average QB rating of 83.2, alongside averaging just 233 yards per game to start the year, has led to speculation as to whether he can improve on his 2021 pro bowl season. Although he has shown glimpses of greatness with a nice completion percentage of 64.6, and had multiple 40–yard completions, fans will keep a close eye on his production as the season progresses (4).
Much of the success Mac Jones and the Patriots offense had last season was a result of targeting tight end Hunter Henry. Both Hunter Henry and his counterpart Jonnu Smith signed hefty contracts prior to the 2021 season, and although Henry lived up to expectations last season, this year both Henry and Smith have produced minimal production on offense. Now is the time to run an offense that targets both tight ends more, as Smith came over as a great receiver who fights through contact after the reception, and Henry has proven his worth last season and will hopefully build off the solid chemistry he formed with Mac Jones.
On the defensive side of the ball, many fans have wondered whether the Patriots young secondary would be able to match up against the talented Steelers wide receivers. Many thought players wouldn’t be able to hold their own after Miami Dolphins receivers Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle combined for 163 yards receiving against the Patriots, but the defense held up and are currently top 10 in pass defense, rush defense, and total defense after letting up only 14 points to Pittsburgh (7).
Moving forward, the Patriots have a tough schedule ahead of them; facing the NFC North this season will be a tough task as they play against the Packers, led by future hall of famer Aaron Rodgers, a new and improved Detroit Lions team, and a great offense in the Minnesota Vikings. With the Buffalo Bills now being seen as a powerhouse in the AFC, and the Miami Dolphins taking a huge leap after the signing of Tyreek Hill, the Pats have a rough schedule ahead of them if they want to make the playoffs. Their win in Pittsburgh was a crucial one, but the Patriots need to get their offense clicking and utilize key players more often if they want to be able to compete for the Lombardi trophy this season. A lot of that relies on the shoulders of Mac Jones and his playing, as well as the receiving core and offensive personnel the Patriots have, and realizing who should get the ball to help the team compete at their highest level.
(1) https://www.patspulpit.com/2022/9/19/23359912/patriots-steelers-snap-counts-analysis-nfl-week-2
(2):https://www.espn.com/nfl/player/_/id/2971618/nelson-agholor
(3):https://www.espn.com/nfl/player/_/id/3916433/jakobi-meyers
(4):https://www.espn.com/nfl/player/_/id/4241464/mac-jones
(5):https://www.espn.com/nfl/player/_/id/3116406/tyreek-hill
(6):https://www.espn.com/nfl/player/_/id/4372016/jaylen-waddle
(7):https://www.msn.com/en-us/sports/more-sports/patriots-defense-top-10-across-the-board/ar-AA122txh

About the Contributors
Nick Collins, Sports Editor
Bianca Oppedisano, Illustrator