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NFL Notes: Pats need all the playmakers they can get

The decision to limit Demario Douglas’ playing time against Miami hurt the offense's chances to produce.

Hunter-Henry-NFL Notes (1) copy

Back in 2001 the Patriots had an extremely talented wide receiver who seemed to lack the desire to get on the field. Bill Belichick was one of those who questioned the player's desire.

The wideout was dealing with a balky hamstring, and Belichick felt enough time had passed and that Terry Glenn should be ready to return. Glenn played in only four games that season, starting one, and finished with just 14 catches and a touchdown – the first touchdown pass of Tom Brady's career.

As the season progressed, Belichick became more and more irritated by Glenn's inactivity. Finally, the coach decided that the talent was no longer worth waiting for and the team would have to make do without him. Belichick suspended Glenn late in the season, and behind Brady the Patriots went on to win the first of their six Super Bowl titles.

Clearly, the decision to discipline the player had no ill effect on the team. Such was life with Brady and countless other Patriots Hall of Famers at his disposal.

The Patriots dropped to 0-2 for the first time since that magical 2001 season following Sunday night's loss to Miami, a game that saw Belichick opt to exert some discipline once again. After a costly first quarter fumble, rookie Demario Douglas did not take another offensive snap in the game despite providing the offense with a spark on his two early receptions. The second one saw the rookie quickly stop to make a Dolphins defender miss before cutting sharply upfield for a solid gain. Unfortunately, Miami pass rusher Bradley Chubb tracked him down from behind and chopped the ball loose, ending the Patriots drive.

Belichick was asked several questions about Douglas' status after the game, but the coach refused to offer any insight.

"We played all of our skill players," the coach began. Despite being pressed further on the topic, Belichick continued his stance.

"We had a lot of production on offense," Belichick maintained. "[DeVante] Parker had a good day. [Mike] Gesicki had a good day. Hunter [Henry] had a good day, JuJu [Smith-Schuster], KB [Kendrick Bourne]. So, a lot of good players. Can't play everybody."

Belichick appeared to be irritated by the questions, which is understandable coming off a home loss to a divisional opponent. But it's also fair to wonder if he may want to rethink his practice of sitting young players following issues with ball security.

While Belichick asserted that a variety of offensive players "had a good day," reality is that virtually no one on the offensive side of the ball performed well for the Patriots. The team had 3 points heading into the fourth quarter and trailed by 14 before showing any signs of life. Even after a pair of late touchdowns, New England managed only 288 yards of offense and once again failed to move the ball twice down the stretch when it was a one-score game.

Douglas represents one of a scant few playmaking possibilities within the offense. His two catches, coming within the six snaps he took part in, resulted in receptions of 9 and 10 yards. Both saw the rookie make tacklers miss in the open field and provide some elusiveness. Those two grabs represented the third and fourth longest gains of the night through the first three quarters. Benching a potential playmaker to send a message left the offense lacking and contributed to another lackluster affair.

It was similar to a path Belichick took in 2021 when Rhamondre Stevenson lost a fumble early in his NFL debut, coincidentally in a home loss to Miami. Stevenson's miscue led to an early-season banishment. After not playing the remainder of the opener, the rookie was inactive in the next three games before returning on a limited basis in Weeks 5 and 6.

New England lost tight games to New Orleans, Tampa Bay and Dallas during that stretch, and Stevenson combined for five carries in those three defeats. It's certainly plausible that the powerful running back could have made the difference in at least one of those close defeats.

The same could be said of Douglas, who's open-field quickness was evident all summer in camp. For an offense that is starved for production, intentionally excluding one of the few options capable of picking up yards in chunks seems unwise. During the first two games it was apparent that moving the ball was an arduous task. Every yard gained was a difficult endeavor, so why not look past a single error and allow a young player the chance to learn on the fly with the hopes of providing a lift?

Ezekiel Elliott fumbled in his first game as a Patriot, but as a veteran with a track record he was afforded the luxury of fighting through it. Stevenson and Douglas weren't as lucky and given the state of the offense it's not the type of discipline the team can afford to levy with a championship-caliber roster no longer residing in Foxborough.

If Douglas continues to be loose with the football, then by all means send a message. But one mistake doesn't seem worthy of such drastic measures – ones that could potentially cost the team chances at victory.

Can't finish

The early-season pattern for the Patriots has been quite similar to what has transpired in the recent past when facing quality opponents – fall behind early, fight to keep up, ultimately fall short of a comeback. In losses to both the Eagles and Dolphins, the offense had the ball down a score with a chance to win or tie seven times in the second half but couldn't close the deal on any of them. Mac Jones completed 17 of 31 passes (54.8 percent) for 127 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions on those seven drives, which translates to a passer rating of 64.9, and was sacked four times.

Here's a look at how those possessions transpired.

Week 1 vs. Philadelphia

Table inside Article
Time Qtr Start Situation Comp. Att. Yards Drive Results
15:00 3 NE 25 Trailing, 16-14 1 2 5 3 plays, 6 yards, punt
8:48 3 NE 25 Trailing, 19-14 4 6 24 13 plays, 32 yards, punt
13:21 4 NE 25 Trailing, 22-14 5 8 41 10 plays, 58 yards, downs
3:28 4 PHI 41 Trailing, 25-20 0 2* 0 4 plays, -7 yards, downs
1:57 4 NE 44 Trailing, 25-20 3 6** 28 9 plays, 36 yards, downs

*-Also sacked for 7-yard loss

**-Also sacked for 3-yard loss

Week 2 vs. Miami

Table inside Article
Time Qtr Start Situation Comp. Att. Yards Drive Result
9:56 4 NE 14 Trailing, 17-10 0 2* 0 3 plays, -10 yards, punt
2:14 4 NE 45 Trailing, 24-17 4 5** 29 6 plays, 25 yards, downs

*-Also sacked for 10-yard loss

*-Also sacked for 8-yard loss

Kicking and screaming

Teams continue to shoot themselves in the foot at times by refusing to play conventional football simply by choosing to kick. The Lions are guilty of this too often, and Dan Campbell continued to put his team in bad spots in Week 2.

Detroit went 1-for-3 on fourth down in an overtime loss to the Seahawks, passing up field goals and sacrificing field position by recklessly going for fourth downs. Campbell passed up a 49-yard field goal (indoors) to go for it on fourth-and-4 and came away with nothing. He then went for a fourth-and-2 from his own 45 and failed, giving the Seahawks a short field. Given Campbell's aggressiveness, he then went strangely conservative at the end of regulation. Trailing by 3 and well inside field goal range, the Lions appeared content to go to OT and didn't push the ball into the end zone. Odd decision-making all around.

Cleveland Browns running back Nick Chubb is carted off the field with an injury during the first half of an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers Monday, Sept. 18, 2023, in Pittsburgh.
Cleveland Browns running back Nick Chubb is carted off the field with an injury during the first half of an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers Monday, Sept. 18, 2023, in Pittsburgh.

Injuries continue

After watching Aaron Rodgers go down the season in the opener, Week 2 saw a few more high-profile players affected by serious injuries. The Giants spirited comeback in Arizona was marred by the loss of Saquan Barkley to a knee injury, although the initial prognosis calls for the star running back to miss a few games but not the season.

Cleveland's Nick Chubb likely was not as fortunate. He went down in the second quarter of the Browns Monday night loss in Pittsburgh with a significant left knee injury. He was extremely emotional as he was carted off the field, and the Browns offense will not be without its best weapon.

Losing star players to injury, especially so early in the season, is really tough on fans and everyone interested in the NFL.

Power 5

  1. San Francisco (2-0) – The Niners got some resistance from the Rams on the road but ultimately pulled away down the stretch.
  2. Kansas City (1-1) – The Chiefs are still finding their way in the early going but the defense was stout in Jacksonville.
  3. Buffalo (1-1) – Nice bounce back game for Josh Allen and the Bills.
  4. Dallas (2-0) – The Cowboys enter the poll after a pair of impressive performances against the New York teams.
  5. Philadelphia (2-0) – The Eagles defense is struggling but the ground game got back on track.

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