In the oppressive South Florida humidity, the New England Patriots’ Week 1 loss to the Miami Dolphins was excusable — even more so after the Dolphins’ second-half comeback on the road against the Baltimore Ravens yesterday.
While the loss should’ve been expected, they didn’t put on an encouraging performance. Mac Jones threw an interception on the opening drive of the game, and his 21 total completions only resulted in 213 yards passing.
If there was ever a year to write off the Patriots it’s 2022. They let J.C. Jackson walk in free agency, their recent drafts have resulted in little talent, and the significant investment they made on pass catchers would’ve been better spent at that casino built a few miles from TD Garden in Boston.
The Patriots lacking talent is a problem that was noticeable during Tom Brady’s final season with the team in 2019. This season the roster looked like it might be even worse than their 2020 season when several key players opted out because of COVID, but the 2022 schedule did them a solid — it put them up against Mitchell Trubisky in Week 2.
The Pittsburgh Steelers snuck out of Cincinnati with a victory against the Bengals in Week 1, but the opposition turned the ball over five times. Trubisky’s 21 completed passes in that game only went for 194 yards. If the Patriots were going to give their 2022 season a chance, they needed a road win against Trubisky and the Steelers with the Ravens and Packers up next on the schedule.
It was an ugly afternoon in Western Pennsylvania. Neither team reached 20 points and they alternated turnovers in the first quarter. However, there was one play Jones made that the Steelers starter in his sixth NFL season would never have tried.
The Steelers have arguably three wide receivers better than Nelson Agholor, but regardless of whatever grievances Philadelphia Eagles fans might have felt the need to express on live television after people were evacuated during a fire, it was his play that changed the game. Agholor snatched a jump ball in tight man coverage over Ahkello Witherspoon and then finished the 44-yard play off with a touchdown.
Jones was indisputably the quarterback from the 2021 class who played the best in his rookie season. He was a Pro Bowl alternate and had the Patriots at the precipice of an AFC East championship. Sure they lost by double digits to the Buffalo Bills in Week 16 and in a Wild-Card playoff game, but at least he kept his team in contention and was not afraid to let the ball go when necessary.
He passed for 3,801 yards as a rookie while Trubisky has been in decline since his 3,223-yard season in 2018. When the game was in the balance, Trubisky, whose athleticism is supposed to be a strength, broke for the sideline during a crucial play and he was so indecisive it wasn’t clear whether he wanted to get out-of-bounds or turn upfield for a gain with his feet. Neither happened and he was sacked by Matthew Judon.
For all of the Patriots’ flaws on their roster, at least their starting quarterback is capable of making a competent effort at a game-changing play.