Patriots

Sobering reality is Patriots may not make progress toward future contender status this season

Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff
Nelson Agholor's fumble in the fourth quarter was one of four turnovers by the Patriots.


Welcome to the Unconventional Review, an instant reaction to standouts, stats, and story lines from the Patriots’ most recent game . . .

It wouldn’t be fair to expect Mac Jones to win a shootout with Lamar Jackson at this point of his career. Jackson is a former Most Valuable Player with electrifying talent and an improved grasp on the nuances of when to throw and when to run. He is a superstar, and, oh, is he going to get paid.

Jones? He’s a second-year starter with a deft passing touch, but he’s limited in pure talent, and right now is so flummoxed that he’s even struggling with the aspects of quarterback play that he supposedly does well. Oh, and now he’s hurt.

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The Patriots could have won Sunday. They trailed by a point at halftime, 14-13, in their season debut at Gillette Stadium. But Jackson took over in the second half, finishing with four passing touchdowns, one rushing TD, and 325 total yards. Jones, meanwhile, fell apart trying to keep pace, throwing three interceptions on the Patriots’ final five possessions before hobbling off with an apparent leg injury.

Jones did not throw a touchdown pass, and all three of his interceptions were not befitting a quarterback who is supposed to be adept at reading defenses and seeing the field.

Now the Patriots are 1-2, with the distinct possibility of facing Aaron Rodgers and the Packers next Sunday with Brian Hoyer, who as a QB makes for a pretty decent assistant coach, possibly in line to start.

This was a sobering Sunday for those who thought Jones and the Patriots would make real progress toward future contender status this season.

Some further thoughts, upon immediate review . . .

THREE PLAYERS WHO WERE WORTH WATCHING

Players suggested in Unconventional Preview: Cole Strange, Jabrill Peppers, Rashod Bateman

DeVante Parker: The last time Parker looked this good, he was torching Stephon Gilmore and the Patriots for 137 yards in Week 17 of the 2019 season while a member of the Dolphins. Parker entered Sunday’s game with just one reception for 9 yards in his first two games as a Patriot, and his reputation as an expert at winning 50-50 balls was becoming a punch line. But with Jakobi Meyers, Jones’s favorite target for better or worse, out with a knee injury, Parker got an opportunity to show what he could do — and what he did was make big plays over and over again. His first four receptions were all more than 25 yards, he added a 24 yarder later, and finished with five receptions for 156 yards. The ol’ 50-50 concept does come into play here in a certain way, since Parker made those five catches on 10 targets, but overall he had a superb game. It’ll be interesting to see if he can continue to flourish when Meyers is back in action.

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Mark Andrews: The Patriots defense did not do a particularly good job dealing with the Ravens’ best offensive players. We detailed Jackson’s feats already, and they were often in collaboration with Andrews, the Ravens’ All-Pro tight end. Andrews finished with eight catches for 89 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He was the first Raven to find the end zone Sunday, taking a shovel pass from Jackson and rumbling in from 4 yards out to give the visitors a 7-3 lead with just less than five minutes left in the first quarter. He added a second touchdown before halftime, beating Devin McCourty and catching a 16-yard sling from Jackson for a 14-10 Ravens lead.

Deatrich Wise Jr.: For those fleeting first-half moments when it seemed as if the Patriots might keep Jackson under control, Wise was a significant reason why. The defensive end continued his impressive start to the season with a sensational first half. He sacked Jackson three times in the first 15 minutes of action, taking advantage of reserve tackles Patrick Mekari and, after he departed with an injury, Daniel Faalele. Wise also added another tackle for a loss in the first half, running Devin Duvernay out of bounds for a 4-yard loss. He finished with a career-best six tackles.

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GRIEVANCE OF THE GAME

Not to be too general, but it’s the recurring mistakes. This team has no margin for error, and they chronically give up whatever margin they do have. If you want to be generous, perhaps Jones’s interceptions can be chalked up to adjusting to a new offensive coordinator who may or may not have a clue, or just being a young quarterback in general, 20 starts into his career. Those growing pains, if you want to call them that, are frustrating. Infuriating are the repeated mistakes by veterans from week to week. Nelson Agholor committed the Patriots’ third turnover, getting the ball punched out from behind by Ravens rookie Kyle Hamilton, a fumble similar to one he lost in the opener against the Dolphins. And Isaiah Wynn stunted a pair of possessions with a false start penalty and a hold. Wynn had the same false start/holding combo against the Steelers last week, and has four penalties in three games after having eight in 16 games a year ago.

THREE THOUGHTS SCRIBBLED IN THE MARGINS

(Predicted final score: Ravens 27, Patriots 13)

(Final score: Ravens 37, Patriots 26)

In the latest episode of everybody’s least-favorite game show, “How Many Snaps Will Kendrick Bourne Play?’’ the answer was just 20, even with Meyers sidelined. As usual, Bourne did make an impact in his limited time. In the final 30 seconds of the first half, he caught a 22-yard pass, then followed up with an 11-yarder that included some nifty footwork to get out of bounds with one second left, allowing Nick Folk to boot a 50-yard field goal and cut the Ravens’ lead to 14-13 . . . Maybe Jonathan Jones is the Patriots’ No. 1 cornerback. He collected the only interception of Jackson, and later ripped the ball away from Bateman, forcing a fumble that Jabrill Peppers recovered . . . Rhamondre Stevenson ran with conviction, picking up 46 yards on his first six carries en route to 73 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries. No knock on Damien Harris, but wouldn’t you love to see what Stevenson would do with 25 carries one of these Sundays?

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