The New England Patriots got into the win column for the first time this season, beating the Pittsburgh Steelers 17-14 on Sunday. During the game, here’s who stood out, and who didn’t, for the Patriots.
Loser: QB Mac Jones. It wasn’t all bad for Jones on Sunday, but the sophomore’s decision-making was shaky again. The results were an interception and another that was dropped, while Jones also missed a number of opportunities elsewhere.
On the first interception, Jones fired a prayer down to DeVante Parker despite Pittsburgh’s two-high safety look. In the process, Jones missed an open Jakobi Meyers for the potential third down conversion. Jones also missed Meyers later in the game open in the flat for an easy conversion, instead forcing an incompletion to Jonnu Smith. He also had Lil’Jordan Humphrey open downfield earlier in the contest but didn’t see him.
As he works through offensive changes with new coaches, Jones’ regression in this area through two weeks could become a concern.
Winner: WR Jakobi Meyers. Speaking of Meyers, it was another impressive day for Jones’ go-to guy. Meyers led New England’s pass catchers in targets (13) and receptions (9) for the second straight week, while his 95 receiving yards marked the fourth-highest total of his career. It was just another day at the office for “Mr. Clutch”, as Damien Harris nicknamed Meyers post-match.
Winner: WR Nelson Agholor. Sticking with wide receivers, Agholor had perhaps his best game in a Patriot uniform, eclipsing the 100-yard mark for the first time in New England. The highlight of the day came on his 44-yard touchdown reception when the Patriots were desperate for a big play.
Agholor was able to loft the ball and keep his balance on his way into the end zone. He finished with six receptions for 110 yards and that score.
Losers: TE Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry. It was a no-show from the Patriots tight end duo on Sunday, as neither Smith or Henry hauled in any of their combined four targets. The duo also saw less time on the field together as the Patriots relied on their 11 personnel package instead of the two-tight end sets they used heavily in Week 1.
Winner: offensive line. It wasn’t a perfect day for New England’s offensive line as they had a handful of penalties and one bad stretch of plays in the first half. But, Mac Jones had remarkable time in the pocket and was not sacked once. The unit also opened up some quality holes in the run game when they turned back the clocks to their spacing/power scheme, helping them milk the clock in their play-clinching drive.
“Offensive line played awesome, didn’t really get hit,” Mac Jones said. “Hats off to them. Run game, pass game, they made it work. That’s something I was really proud of.”
It is interesting to note that the unit’s strong play came with a change of plans by the coaching staff. Assistant offensive line coach Billy Yates was on the sideline for the entirety of the game after spending the first half of games in the booth during the preseason and in Week 1. Whether the change contributed to the performance or not, it was a remarkable switch.
Also, rookie Cole Strange’s play against Cameron Hayward was impressive.
Winner: LB Matthew Judon. Judon recorded a sack near the end of the first half, but his best play of the day came in pass coverage. Guarding dynamic second-year running back Najee Harris out of the backfield on a wheel route, Judon stayed with him and was able to force an incompletion. The Patriots would be best off letting Jude do what he does best as a pass rusher, but he made the play when it mattered on Sunday.
Honorable mentions: While the offensive line opened up some quality holes on the day, both Rhamondre Stevenson and Damien Harris ran strong, averaging just under a combined 5.0 yards per carry.
Linebacker Mack Wilson Sr. made an impressive play in pass coverage, reading Mitchell Trubisky’s eyes and knocking a pass in the air that cornerback Jalen Mills was able to catch.
Jabrill Peppers hasn’t played a major role on defense — likely because he’s still working up to speed after last year’s torn ACL — but he’s impressed in his action. He made a strong pair of open field tackles on one of Pittsburgh’s drives.
For the second straight game, DeVante Parker was a no-show for the Patriots offense. He didn’t carry any of his targets — one being a poor one under a Mac Jones throw — but now has just one catch for nine yards on four targets in his Patriots career. Two of those goals resulted in interceptions.