In a few months, the Patriots should start stripping their franchise down to the studs.
The cupboards, of course, are already bare. The junk drawer is jammed with busted draft picks and turnstile offensive linemen. It’s possible, maybe even likely, the Pats will hold a yard sale before the NFL’s trade deadline and haggle with passing GMs over their trinkets and save for a better future.
But why wait?
Start the teardown Sunday by running into the kitchen, ripping out the sink and hurling it at the Bills.
What does a 1-5 team have to lose?
The Bills have owned the Patriots, owned them in the post-Brady era. Since 2019, the Pats are 1-6 against the one-time divisional doormats. In that span, they’ve been outscored by 97 points.
Their only victory remains that windstorm win at Buffalo in 2021, a game best remembered for Mac Jones attempting three passes all night. Jones might be lucky to get three clean throws off on Sunday.
Jones and Bill Belichick separately admitted Wednesday that Buffalo’s pass rush is the best in the league. The Pats inarguably own the NFL’s least talented offensive line. Jones’ is on a collision course with the trainer’s room.
The Bills are 8.5-point road favorites, the widest pro-Buffalo spread point in New England since 1993. And this comes after Jones and Co. showed improvement against the Raiders, enough to bump them from ranking last in pass offense and rush offense by Expected Points Added (EPA) to 31st in each category.
So, throw shame to the wind, and a double-pass, too. If Malik Cunningham must split his time between quarterback and receiver, as he did last weekend in Las Vegas, at least let him chuck one from outside the numbers.
Again, what is there to lose?
Cut Cunningham loose as a runner, too. Not only did the Patriots prepare a package for him last weekend, Belichick broke out a triple-option game plan on a short regular-season week in 2016 with rookie Jacoby Brissett under center. Imagine what Belichick might find if he’s willing to dump his entire bag of tricks onto the table and beat a division rival.
More triple-option? A reverse? Double-reverses? Wildcat?
Belichick seems at least open to more snaps for Cunningham.
“Look, he’s a young player, so he’s improving,” Belichick said Wednesday of handing Cunningham a full complement of reps. “We’ll see how it goes.”
Any play design that vaults Rhamondre Stevenson, Kendrick Bourne or rookie receiver Demario Douglas — provided Douglas is out of concussion protocol and witness protection — should be foundational to the offense’s plan. Stevenson and Bourne account for 10 of the team’s 15 broken tackles the last four weeks. The only other Patriots to make a defender miss in that stretch are Ezekiel Elliott and Pharaoh Brown, cast-offs they added in August.
Meanwhile, the Bills can’t tackle. Buffalo’s defense ranks as the fourth-worst tackling unit in the league, per Pro Football Focus. The Bills whiff almost eight times per game.
So how about drawing up a new screen? Flea flicker? Haflback pass? Hook and lateral? Statue of Liberty play?
Though the Pats shouldn’t limit their trickery to the offensive side. Try special teams.
The Patriots’ special teams rank dead last by the opponent-and-situation-adjusted metric DVOA. What about a reverse on the return? Or a fake field goal?
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Rookie kicker Chad Ryland is 5-of-9 on the season. The Patriots shouldn’t be settling for three against Josh Allen anyway. Or maybe even punting, considering the Bills have averaged more than 30 points per game against them the last three years.
The hell with all of it. So what if these measures reek of desperation? These are precisely the times that call for them.
Telling the whole world you were “starting over” didn’t work last week. Focusing harder on fundamentals yielded these results: 10 penalties, two turnovers and a loss to a Brian Hoyer-led team rated worse than you are by certain advanced metrics.
By any measure, the Bills are miles better. They are, as Belichick said Wednesday, “strong in every area.” Any neutral observer is rightfully expecting a blowout Sunday.
But an unexpected game plan just might, might, lead to an unexpected result.
And if not, at least you know this: you can still sprint upstairs and throw the bathroom sink at Miami next week.
Boogie Basham (55) of the Buffalo Bills grabs a hold of Patriots quarterback Mac Jones during the second half of a game at Gillette Stadium on Dec. 2, 2022. (Staff Photo/Matt Stone/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)