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Mac Jones, Rhamondre Stevenson and Jakobi Meyers Each Took the Rap for That Disastrous Final Play. But the Blame Has to Go Much Deeper Than Just Them.

One of the qualities I most admire in a person is accountability. Show me someone who's willing to take the blame for their mistakes and the mistakes of their team as a whole and I'll show you a winner. As Weymouth Public School teaching legend and Intimidation Experiment Alma Driscoll used to put it, "When you point a finger at someone, three fingers are pointing back at you." Granted, that is somewhat ableist and discriminates against people like Johnny Tremain, Captain Hook and Jason Pierre-Paul, it's nevertheless a good rule of thumb. (Also a discriminatory phrase, but whatever.) Which she usually delivered while pointing a judgmental, bony, liver-spotted finger at me and my friends. So I appreciate Mac Jones, Rhamondre Stevenson and Jakobi Meyers's willingness to fall on the sword for that last play goatfuck. 

And you can make a case that at least two of the three were the least of the Patriots' problem. Jones was only 13-for-31 and 155 yards against the defense that has the highest passer rating against (100.1) and the third highest completion percentage (68.0%). But Stevenson and Meyers get off the hook easily, given that they've not only been the most dependable offensive weapons all year, but what they did in the game:

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But still, all three stood before the world, looked the human race in its collective eye and said it's all on them. Which is a good thing. Not good enough to get them into the playoffs. That ship sailed sank the moment Chandler Jones made the single most unlikely and inexplicable fumble recovery touchdown in NFL history. The non-scoop and score. But it counts for something. In a karmic sense, if nothing else. Especially on a team where excuse-making is one of the Deadly Sins Belichick would use as a tableaux if he ever decided to go on a serial-killing murder spree:

And because this franchise is built on accountability, of identifying problems large and small and addressing them with a cold, objective, analytic eye, with no regards for anyone's feelings in order to find a solution, this is the perfect time to zero in on the issues of that last play. Indeed, of all the plays that led up to that play. 

And I think I've isolated the source. It wasn't Jones, Stevenson or Meyers. It's been captured here, in this image:

Winslow Townson. Shutterstock Images.

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Ultimately, and I can't imagine ever getting pushback from Belichick on this, the problem is the coaching. We can and should hold the above mentioned players accountable, as they themselves are. But that brainshart didn't just happen in a vacuum. It was only the latest in a long and unbroken string of dumbassery that has gone on all year. It started in OTAs in the spring and hasn't shown any sign of improvement, despite the fact their next game is Christmas Eve. 

False starts. Delays of game. Timeouts burned to prevent delays of game. Dozens upon dozens of plays where it's a race against time and simply getting the snap off is like trying to dismantle a bomb before the timer gets to 0:00. Too many men in the huddle. Not enough men on the field. A complete lack of situational awareness. Veteran players cutting inside for one extra yard instead of stepping out of bounds as time is running out in the half. Max protection calls where blitzers still come in unblocked. Too many to list. And if there was one clean game all year not marred by these unforced errors, I have no memory of it. 

And just because I'm using a photo of Matt Patricia and Joe Judge, by no means is it limited to the offense. In any other season, can you imagine a punt being blocked by a free rusher because two veterans like Jabrill Peppers and Adrian Phillips are looking at and gesturing to each other as the ball is snapped?

This hasn't been about any one play. It's been a breakdown on a team wide level. That last preposterous attempt at a hook and ladder play was symptomatic of a larger problem that began months ago. It's like the "Broken Window" concept of a society that says if you allow windows to be broken without fixing them, or graffiti or people jumping turnstyles without consequences, then people get the idea no one is in charge, their offenses escalate and you get collapse on a societal order. 

That's what's happened here. The details haven't been getting cleaned up, and it's led to a sort of anarchy, 14 games into the season. The 2022 Patriots offense is tied for 10th in accepted penalties committed. They're tied for 6th in drives ending in a turnover. They're 25th in shortest average time per drive, despite being a run-first offense. 

They're +31 in point differential, which is 7th best in the league and usually a pretty fair indicator of where you're at as a team. But they're .500. Which means they're finding ways to lose. And Sunday in Vegas was their greatest success story on that front. And example of what a team is capable of when they want it less.

This is, save for only the 2009 Patriots, which stands alone in terms unlikability in the Dynasty Era, the most undisciplined team of Belichick's tenure. Consistent in their unreliability, reliable in their inconsistency. And if we're going to give credit to superior coaching for all they've done since Pete Carroll was shown the door in January of 2000 (Note: I do), then we have to admit there's a disconnect here between the staff and the players. Despite Jones and Patricia's tender moments:

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The bottom line is, the system is broken. The Patriots have to decide who broke it to such an extent that a game could end on such wildly improvised, undisciplined and chaotic way. Personally, I say the problem runs deep, and traces back to the day the offense was put in the hands of two non-offensive coaches who haven't earned the players' trust. There's yer problem lady. And fixing it is Priority 1-99 the minute the regular season ends. Because it's already cost us a playoff shot.