The 2019 season once looked so promising for the New England Patriots. Now, they find their season over following a 20-13 loss to the Tennessee Titans in the Wild-Card round of the postseason.
Let's review some of the observations made during New England's final game of the 2019 season.
Offense struggles; overcomplicates short yard situations and redzone work
The Patriots' offense looked great during little chunks of the game. But they also went really quiet for long stretches of time. Consistency has been a real problem for this team this season and it seems to have carried into the postseason.
New England came out to a hot start on the opening drive, but struggled, like usual, to score in the red zone. The Patriots' offense had the 26th ranked red zone offense going into Saturday's game, and due to small errors and bad play calls in short yardage situations, they had to settle for two field goals while Patriot teams of the past would have been automatic in that area.
There was a situation at the goal-line in the first half where New England resorted to three straight runs. They ran virtually the same play three times and it ended up losing yards. If the Patriots capitalized in that situation, it was a much different game.
When you couple these missed opportunities with poorly run routes, bad drops, and costly penalties, you cannot expect to win a football game.
This offensive performance seemed to tell the story of the Patriots' subpar offense this season.
Pass defense puts together a masterful effort but cannot hold together when it matters
The Patriots' pass defense managed to shut down the play-action that was so successful for the Titans all year without stopping the run. This effort was unlike no other.
Despite an outrageous effort by Derrick Henry in the first half (13 carries, 106 yards), the Tennessee's play-action pass that they used on 30% of Ryan Tannehill's dropbacks in the regular season had no choice but to scrap that from the playbook.
Even though they were so good against the pass the entire game, Terrence Brooks gave up a huge first down to third-string tight end Anthony Frisker in the fourth quarter, proving that the defense couldn't step up when New England needed them the most.
Jake Bailey doesn't help
It was a really tough night in the punt game. Bailey was not helping the defense by any means. He had a terrible 29-yard punt early in the game. Then, on back to back offensive drives, he kicked touchbacks into the endzone.
Going down the stretch, the rookie punter will need to put together better performances. The night he had tonight will not cut it moving forward.
In the end, the Patriots needed more out of both sides of the ball and got the same thing we saw all season
The Patriots needed to do something that Belichick has famously preached. They needed to do their job. While many think this team lacked talent, it was more underperformance to high expectations.
The Patriots plugged N'Keal Harry and Mohamed Sanu into this offense mid-season and expected them to solve all the passing game issues. They went through the entire season with a razor-thin tight end group and expected to be fine. They had an old, banged-up Patrick Chung sit on an island with tight ends and time and time again get exposed. The issues go well past the ones mentioned.
New England in 2019 was not the most talented group, but it was much better on paper than many think. Unfortunately, games are not won on paper. Games are won when you perform better than your opponent in any given game. This team was entirely preformance-dependent this season. They could win against any team and lose against any team. They beat the Dolphins by 43 in the second week of the season and then lost to them at the end of the regular season.
They needed better playcalling and execution in this game. The Patriots did not get it. Instead, despite the rumors of a "hungry" and "focused" locker room this week, they were unable to execute at a higher level. The team and staff was unable to do their job.