Jets fan Rich Eisen, beginning at the 2:20 mark:
"Dammit, man. The. Rest. Of. This. League: Get ready. Get ready. It's coming. It's already arrived, personally. Belichick knows exactly what he's doing. ... They crushed it. They're going to be a playoff team. This year. ... They're going to be a playoff team and I wouldn't want to face them. ...
"The rest of the league that thinks, 'Ah, the Patriots took a step back last year. Now they've got a rookie quarterback. You don't have to think of them any more.' They're set. They're set. And they're going to get better. I saw it with my own eyes. They're so buttoned up and they know what to do. They know what to do. They know how to execute. Man, they're only going to get better."
By way of full disclosure, I've always liked Rich Eisen. And since he was handed the reigns at NFL Network I've always preferred their coverage to anyone else's, particularly when it comes to the draft. That said, hearing him speak this way is absolutely intoxicating. The sound of reverence his analyst's voice for how quickly Bill Belichick has turned this team around mixed with his Jets fan's anguish over ...well, how quickly Belichick has turned this team around, forms a delicious blended cocktail that always goes down smooth. It truly warms my insides and fills me with joy.
And it should come as a shock to no one that I agree with every word. That win in Los Angeles put the world on notice. Anyone who was counting on the Pats being lost in the wilderness of irrelevance has another thing coming. A return to playoff contention isn't going to take years. Mac Jones isn't going to need dozens of games of experience before he learns what it takes to win. He came out of Nick Saban's metaphorical birth canal already knowing how to close out games.
In Jones' very first game, Jones led his team down to a 1st & 10 in the Miami red zone and was about to take the lead with 3:30 left in the game before his running back fumbled the game away. In the Tampa game, with the eyes of the world upon him, he fed off the pressure to not only outplay the GOAT, he led another go ahead drive with 3:30 left. Then led another that put them on the edge of field goal range, but the kick hit the upright. Against Dallas, he hit a 75-yard touchdown strike with two minutes to play to give his team a lead his defense couldn't hold. And those are just in his losses.
Like I said in the Knee Jerk Reaction yesterday morning, that Chargers game was more than just a W, it was a statement. One that Eisen, for one, heard loud and clear. As he explains here, the Patriots showed situational awareness. They made all the plays they needed to in order to close it out. Jones was poised, focused and accurate as he made all the throws he needed to on the final drive. Even though he was facing more than just the Chargers defense:
But of course it goes way beyond Jones. Establishing that they have a reliable American winning machine at quarterback who wakes up (at 4:30) in the morning and pisses excellence was an absolutely essential ingredient in the success recipe to be sure. Without that, nothing else would matter, really. But there's so much more.
Matthew Judon has been immense. Pro Football Focus credited him with two sacks, eight hurries, three tackles and a team-high four run stops Sunday. Which puts him now fourth in the league in sacks with eight, eighth in QB Hits (legal ones) with 14, and fifth in tackles for a loss with nine.
And Jones is not the only Bama rookie tearing it up.
On a defense that has always relied heavily on tackle rotation, Barmore is seeing his reps go up steadily. In Week 1 he played 48% of the snaps, that went up to 55% against Tampa, 57% against Dallas (an incredible 51 snaps total in that one), and then 63% in each of the last two weeks. And the combination of him in the middle and Judon on the outside is creating one of the best pass rush pairings in the league:
As far as the other new additions, a passing attack that was not taking deep shots downfield the first month of the season now has two wideouts in the Top 20 in yards per reception, Nelson Agholor at 15.2 and Kendrick Bourne with 14.9. While Jakobi Meyers is establishing himself as one of the most prolific inside receivers in the game, third in the league in targets from the slot (49) and fourth in receptions (33), according to PFF. All this from an offense that's been completely overhauled since last year and is designed to run through their tight ends (Hunter Henry has 25 receptions and Jonnu Smith has 20).
All of which goes a long way to illustrate Eisen's premise that this is not the Patriots the rest of the country hoped they'd be. That 2020 was an outlier and will not be repeated.
- "Belichick knows exactly what he's doing."
- "They're so buttoned up."
- "They're going to be a playoff team and I wouldn't want to face them."