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Patriots Unfiltered Q&A: Lamenting the first loss

Fans' questions answered in our weekly mailbag. 


[Head coach Bill] Belichick included himself among those at fault for the Ravens loss. But I didn't see coaching issues. It just seemed like the players on D were not themselves (uncharacteristically sloppy, jumpy, penalties, etc.). Is that because BB and staff did not get the players' heads right? What do you think was the coaching failure? Bonus: I had flashbacks to the 2008 Miami Wildcat fiasco. Can we draw any parallels to coaching failures in that game? Sherwin Yoder, Wallingford, CT

Belichick always assumes his and his coaching staff's share of the blame for any loss. So, his comments to which you referred should come as no surprise to anyone. He'll never say specifically what is was they did wrong from a coaching standpoint, which means it's up to us to infer or speculate on what they might be.

In this particular case, the first Patriots loss of 2019, it could have been game plan-related. Perhaps the staff thought a certain approach to stopping the Ravens' offense might be effective, but before you could get comfortable on your couch, Baltimore was up 17-0. And it took the offense a while, nearly the entire first half, to get itself in a rhythm. Much of that was execution by players, but the play-calling and preparation during the week could also be contributing factors.

I understand why you might think back to the Wildcat game of '08, but I don't see a direct comparison there, primarily because that wrinkle took New England completely by surprise that day. The Ravens, on the other hand, didn't do anything the Patriots weren't expecting – they just did it very well. Erik Scalavino

That's a very useful loss [to Baltimore]. It stops the 16-0 circus, ends the best-defense-of-all-time headlines, and will refocus the team during the bye week. Your thoughts? Ludovic Boisseau, Versailles, France

Useful? There's always something that can be learned from any failure, but only one of the three you mentioned is valid, in my estimation, and that's the last one. The Patriots under Bill Belichick tend to increase their focus on details, fundamentals, and the big picture going into any bye week, but particularly when they did so immediately following a loss. In that respect, this should be a serious week of practice and so-called "self-scouting" for New England.

As for the perfection argument coming to an end, why on earth wouldn't you want your favorite team to go undefeated and be considered the best of all time, defensively or otherwise? That's the entire point of sports, to win everything every time you compete. A 16-0 circus? I'd welcome it any day. Best defense ever? Bring it on. Yes, this loss will surely temper such claims, but true fans shouldn't be happy about it whatsoever. Erik Scalavino

The Patriots traded two franchise QBs to the 49ers (Jimmy Garoppolo) and Colts (Jacoby Brissett) and then passed on drafting [Baltimore's Lamar] Jackson. Do you think BB has any regrets about that one? Tom Podolski

I'm sure, like any human being, the head coach of this team has regrets about personnel moves he's made, whether he'll ever admit them publicly or not. My guess is he wishes he could have at least one of the aforementioned decisions to make over again, but as the third-winningest coach in NFL history and owner of more Super Bowl trophies than any other, I'm sure he's sleeping pretty well at night. Erik Scalavino

Years ago, the Patriots used to use Mike Vrabel as an eligible receiver near the goal line. Any chance they try that now with either [LBs Kyle] Van Noy or [Jamie] Collins? Mike Kreinsen

Tantalizing prospect, Mike! However, we've seen nothing in training camp practices (we don't get to see much more than stretching during regular season sessions) or any games since to indicate that either of these men, or any other defenders, are being considered for such a role on offense. I like how you're thinking, though. Erik Scalavino

Do you think the decision not to trade for a tight end was due to a potential Gronk return? Matt Reininger

No, I don't. And to be clear, we don't know for certain that the Patriots "decided" not to deal for a tight end before last week's NFL trade deadline. It's entirely possible that they made every effort to do so, but couldn't find a willing trading partner. Erik Scalavino

Do you think Tom Brady will let Bill Belichick and Robert Kraft know before the draft if he is going to retire? If so, do you think they take a quarterback at the end of the first round next year, maybe Jalen Hurts? Christopher Mooney

I've long since tired of the incessant "when-is-Brady-retiring" speculation. I have no idea what his intentions are, and neither does anyone else, short of his immediate family, and even there, I wonder.

He's here right now, and that's all that should matter. This season. That's it. When 2020 arrives, that's when we'll focus on next season. Incidentally, at the moment, Brady is scheduled to become a free agent at the end of this season. So, if nothing changes between now and then in terms of his contract with the Patriots, he could conceivably be elsewhere and under no obligation to tell anyone in Foxborough what his plans for the future might be.

I understand your concern for the long-term wellbeing of this franchise, Christopher, but my advice is, just enjoy what's going on today. Tomorrow will be here soon enough. Erik Scalavino

Why Joejuan Williams is not playing, not even in garbage time? He's a second-round pick. Sergio Vazquez

It's just a numbers game at the cornerback position right now. I don't believe Williams' lack of playing time (he's usually among the seven inactive players on game days) is a reflection of his talent of abilities. This defense is just chock full of good corners right now and someone has to be the odd man out. For the moment, that's Williams. His time will come eventually, though, whether this year or next. Erik Scalavino

What is the status of WR Josh Gordon? Why was he traded? Walter Finch

Wasn't traded. Gordon was placed on injured reserve late last month and released off IR shortly thereafter. The Seattle Seahawks then claimed him off waivers. Erik Scalavino

How did the biggest player on an NFL practice squad disappear without a trace? I have looked through all the posted team transactions and have not seen a posted explanation as to what happened to Dan Skipper. Bryant Smeeth

In October, the Houston Texans signed the 6-9 offensive tackle off of New England's practice squad. He's now on their active roster. Teams don't normally issue press releases when a player is plucked from their practice squad, which would explain why you didn't see any mention of this among the Patriots' press releases. Erik Scalavino

Coach Belichick pays attention to the details. While Mohamed Sanu is a welcome addition on the field (nice opening game), do you think part of the attraction was as a source of information regarding the Kyle Shanahan offense, given that the 49ers are leading the NFC and a 49ers v. Patriots Super Bowl is statistically most likely? Geoff Tucker

No. Erik Scalavino

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