Patriots

Ted Johnson: Late-season losses exposed ‘fraudulent’ Patriots

The former Patriots' linebacker didn't hold back when talking about the team's collapse down the stretch this season and how the team needs to change going forward.

Mac Jones Patriots
New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones. (AP Photo/Joshua Bessex)

NBC Sports Boston analyst Ted Johnson admits this year’s Patriots team had him buying the hype during New England’s surprising seven-game winning streak.

Then, the bye week happened. Everything changed. On 98.5 The Sports Hub’s “Toucher and Rich” morning show Tuesday, the former Patriots linebacker was blunt in his assessment of why that happened.

“They really had an overinflated sense of self. They were feeling it,” he said.

From then on, it was all downhill from there as the Patriots lost four of their last five games, including Saturday’s 47-17 wild-card shellacking against the Bills.

For Johnson, it all started with the team’s Week 15 loss to the Colts in which Indianapolis talked a big game about their plans for the Patriots and delivered on it.

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“The narrative at that time was the Patriots can compete with anyone in the AFC. I think the Colts came out and smacked them right in the mouth,” he said.

“The Colts just exposed the Patriots. The Patriots knew it. They knew they were fraudulent, and they couldn’t recover.”

Johnson also called out what he believes was poor effort from the Patriots’ defense, saying certain defenders weren’t “playing hard” and were pulling up on tackle attempts.

The pass rush, which had been led by a sterling Matthew Judon, disappeared after the Week 14 bye week following New England’s primetime defeat of the Bills the week before. Injuries led to linebacker Dont’a Hightower and safety Kyle Dugger missing time down the stretch, which stretched the defense thin.

Most troubling of all, the Patriots served up at least 300 passing yards and three passing touchdowns to Josh Allen, who carved up their defense at will with his arm and legs, twice during that stretch, solidifying the grim reality of Buffalo’s dominance over New England and the rest of the AFC East.

The stunning collapse could usher in some changes this offseason, Johnson added.

“The guys who have been studs here for a long time — [Kyle]Van Noy, Hightower — they’re not the same players anymore,” he said. “They need to change how they play on defense…the NFL’s changing. It’s a different league. You can beat up on a lot of average teams in the regular season. You can win 10-12 games doing it that way. But at the end of the day, to beat the elite teams, I think Bill’s going to have to change his philosophy on how he builds a roster from a profile standpoint.”

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On the other side of the ball, rookie quarterback sensation Mac Jones fell back down to Earth, turning the ball over the same number of times (eight) as he threw for touchdowns through the air in the final five contests.

Though Johnson praised the rookie’s intensity, the analyst said the games against the Bills, in particular, highlighted the difference in Jones’s ceiling versus those of a star quarterback like Allen.

“You could have the perfect [defensive] call for the perfect situation with their personnel grouping. When Josh Allen goes off-script, Bill [Belichick] can’t control that,” Johnson explained.

“If you’re going to have a quarterback like Mac Jones in today’s NFL, it is so much work because everything else around him has to fit perfectly. You have to have the perfect blocking. You have to have a great offensive line to protect him…the timing has to be perfect with your receivers. You have to have continuity with those guys because he’s a pocket passer.”

When asked to take a guess at Jones’s ceiling as a quarterback, Johnson agreed with suggestions of pocket-passing quarterbacks like Andy Dalton, Chad Pennington, and Kyle Orton rather than Tom Brady as examples of what the rookie might develop into for his career.

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“If you asked Bill Belichick if he thinks he could’ve won a Super Bowl with Chad Pennington or Andy Dalton, what do you think he would say? He would say ‘Yes,'” Johnson said. “In Bill’s mind, that might be good enough. But to the rest of us, when we watch today’s NFL, the evolution of that position and how offenses look, we look a million miles away from being competitive with the Bills and the Chiefs when you think about it in those terms.”

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