Football

Pats’ best can’t overcome their worst

Once Rhamonde Stavenson coughed up the football with a bit over one minute left, the Patriots verified an ancient NFL proverb:

Bad teams can always find a way to lose,

Declaring the 2022 New England Patriots a bad team has not been done flippantly. As they cobbled together a decent record – and offered evidence that they were playoff-worthy – the Pats were far from flawless.

But they played hard, they hung in against superior opponents and, more often than not, put themselves in position to win.

High school coaches offer such assessments when they have a particularly scrappy group that can’t quite get past the final barrier to win. And they can be commended for it.

But NFL players receive handsome rewards for practicing beneath the searing summer sun and willing themselves to hit and be hit when the wind-chill temperature dips into single digits.

Sunday afternoon at Gillette Stadium, the Cincinnati Bengals did their part to keep the Patriots in the game.

Joe Burrow, the quarterback New England wishes Mac Jones could become, dissected the Patriots defense long enough to build a 22-0 lead.

In the second half, Burrow only flirted with adequacy. He graciously tossed Marcus Jones an interception, which Jones ran back 69 yards for a touchdown.

Bengals placekicker Evan McPherson shanked his first two PAT attempts.

That Mac Jones was able to hand off the ball that Stevenson fumbled on a first-and-goal was made possible by Bengals receiver Ja’Marr Chase’s fumble a few plays earlier.

This is one loss for which Mac Jones cannot be pilloried. The Patriots’ ineptitude in the first half was truly a team effort. In the second half the quarterbacks switched roles.

Two games remain on the Patriots’ agenda and it is difficult to look forward to them for any reason beyond their signal that this maddening season is about to end. In his post-game meeting with reporters Bill Belichick looked and sounded like a man ready to take a little down time.

There were few snorts, there were few death glares, there were few snarls.

Not that Belichick would ever let anyone dig deep enough to discover his actual thoughts, but he surely knows this:

Bad teams can always find a way to lose.

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