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6 Keys from Patriots last-second loss to Giants

Here's our instant analysis following the Patriots loss to the Giants.

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Mac Jones threw two first-half interceptions and was lifted for Bailey Zappe against the Giants and Zappe nearly did enough to send the game to overtime, but a missed field goal in the final seconds by Chad Ryland did New England in, as the Patriots fell 10-7 for their fourth-straight loss.

The Pats defense did a solid job shutting down the Tommy DeVito-led Giants offense, holding them to just 221 yards of offense, while all 10 of New York's points all came directly off of two New England turnovers. Once again this season it was the giveaways that did the most damage and both quarterbacks played a part.

It was another frustrating low-scoring affair as the Patriots fell to 2-9 on the season.Here are the key takeaways from the game.

1. Peppers popping early

Jabrill Peppers has been a bright spot for the Patriots this season and he was actively involved early in this game, jumping on a fumble on the Giants first possession, then coming up with a big sack on their second possession as he screamed in off the corner on a blitz. Peppers' play was the only notable performance in the first quarter, as the two teams traded punts back and forth, neither able to sustain a drive. 

Still under contract after signing a two-year extension this offseason, Peppers' emerging presence has continually provided a spark for the defense. Unfortunately, the offense was unable to take advantage of his two big plays that he contributed early on.

Despite forcing three first-quarter punts, the Patriots defense continued their big-play-allowing ways, giving up completions of 29 and 22 yards to Jalin Hyatt, while the New England offense struggled on third down with two incompletions that led to punts. On the second drive, Tyquan Thornton could not corral Mac Jones' pass on a quick inside slant, leading to a drop and a punt. Thornton has struggled to develop chemistry with the quarterback this season, as Jones has targeted him seven times but completed just three passes for 15 yards in three previous games in 2023.

2. Mac throws two first-half picks

Jones retained his starting job entering the game, but the offense remained stuck in neutral coming out of the bye and then matters got worse when he threw his 11th interception of the season to cap off the first quarter.

He'd follow that up two drives later with another interception as the mistakes piled up for the third-year quarterback. Both were poorly advised throws, and the second came on the heels of New England's most productive drive of the afternoon. They had racked up 12 plays for 69 yards, including big third-down conversions to Pop Douglas and DeVante Parker that kept the chains moving. Jones and the offense seemed to be finding a stride until disaster struck for the second time.

The Giants would respond off the second turnover with the first score of the game, converting a 3rd-and-10 from the 12-yard line for a touchdown after Jonathan Jones could not make the tackle on Isaiah Hodgins. It was just the Giants second third-down conversion of the first half, as the teams traded nine total punts that led to a 7-0 New York lead at the half. That capped eight touchdown-less quarters for the Patriots, going back to the second quarter against the Commanders for the last time they got into the end zone with Rhamondre Stevenson's 64-yard run.

3. Zappe sparks a score

After a two-pick, one-fumble performance from Mac Jones in the first half, the Patriots made the change to backup Bailey Zappe to start the third quarter and it helped provide a scoring spark. First, the Giants put the opening kickoff of the second half out of bounds, immediately giving Zappe's offense a boost.

But it wasn't all easy, as Zappe converted a third-down pass to Demario Douglas, while Rhamondre Stevenson took a direct snap for a fourth-down conversion. Even Tyquan Thornton got in on the action, taking a screen pass 15 yards to help set up Stevenson for an eight-yard touchdown run. It was a screen-pass-heavy approach for the Patriots, but, in conjunction with some effective running, helped New England pick up their first touchdown in eight quarters.

It tied the game at 7-7 midway through the third quarter as the Patriots offense finally found some signs of life. The tie game would continue into the fourth quarter as the teams reverted back to trading punts after the Patriots score.

4. Zappe gets in on the pick party

With the game tied in the fourth quarter, Zappe threw an interception of his own, setting the Giants up deep in Patriots territory as the mistakes continued to haunt the Patriots no matter who was in at quarterback. Zappe had been held to mostly screen passes on his first two drives and on the third, he looked downfield to Juju Smith-Schuster, only to find Juju's route undercut by Xavier McKinney who made the game-changing interception. 

The Patriots defense held the Giants to just a field goal off the turnover, aided in part by a holding penalty that set New York back by 10 yards. The Giants took a 10-7 lead with just over eight minutes to play as turnovers continued to play an outsized part in the contest, as two of the Patriots three interceptions led directly to points.

5. One last chance

The Patriots defense pitched a stop late in the fourth quarter, setting up the offense with one final chance to tie the game with a field goal. Myles Bryant, filling in for the injured Demario Douglas, got a good punt return all the way back to midfield.

But moving the ball continued to be a challenge for the Pats, with Zappe's third-down pass nearly intercepted and setting up a final fourth-and-4 with the game hanging in the balance. Zappe hit Smith-Schuster for five yards, picking up a first down and extending New England's chance to even the game.

It looked like the game was headed to overtime until Ryland's missed 35-yard field goal put an abrupt end to the game.

6. Patriots are now 2-9

With the loss the Patriots see their losing streak extended through the bye week to four games, but also find their chances of a top-two pick improve to 38 percent according to ESPN's Seth Walder. At 2-9, that's the kind of silver lining we're now looking for, as the team is now assured of their third losing record in four seasons, with a collection of contests against playoff contenders, including the Chiefs and Bills, still left on the 2023 docket.

The theme of a stagnant and turnover-prone offense and a defense that can't do it all themselves continued, and despite two weeks to consider changes, few tangible changes were made, including Mac Jones getting the start and responding with a two-pick performance. That forced the team into a change at quarterback at halftime but the same problems continued, as Zappe threw a pick of his own that led to three Giants points which would ultimately be the difference in the game.

Next up, the Patriots return home to face the Los Angeles Chargers who will take on the Ravens on Sunday Night Football.

DISCLAIMER: The views and thoughts expressed in this article are those of the writer and don't necessarily reflect those of the organization. Read Full Disclaimer

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