The New England Patriots fell to 2-4 on the 2021 NFL Season with a 35-29 loss to the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday evening at Gillette Stadium. Pats quarterback Mac Jones threw for 229 yards with two touchdowns and one interception, while Damien Harris would add 101 yard rushing on 18 carries for a touchdown of his own. In the end, missed opportunities, questionable coaching decisions and their opponents’ ability to make plays when most-needed was the difference between winning and losing in Week Six.
Though a team should never be satisfied with a loss, there are still plenty of lessons to be learned, and insight to be gained, from the Pats performance on Sunday in Foxboro.
Lesson One: Making the Playoffs Will Be Difficult, But Not Impossible…Yet
The Patriots have not missed the playoffs in consecutive seasons since 1999 and 2000. With their loss to the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, the Pats seem to be trending in that direction. At 2-4, the Pats face an uphill battle to make the postseason to say the least. As indicated below by Mark Daniels of the Providence Journal, the odds are certainly not in New England’s favor:
As difficult as it may seem, there is still a path to the playoffs for the Patriots. To do so, however, New England must start winning soon. The Pats will host the New York Jets on Sunday, followed by playing five of their next seven games on the road. During that span, New England’s opponents include the Cleveland Browns, Tennessee Titans, Buffalo Bills and Los Angeles Chargers. Mission: Difficult…but not Impossible.
Lesson Two: Rhamondre Stevenson may be off ‘Double Secret Probation’
The Pats rookie running back took a big step toward earning his way off of the Belichickian equivalent of ‘double secret probation’ on Sunday. Stevenson collected 23 yards and one touchdown on five carries, along with 39 receiving yards. For Sunday’s matchup with the Cowboys, Stevenson showed the necessary intangibles to be an effective option in both situational runs, and even receiving out of the backfield. The former Oklahoma Sooner nicely blends power and athleticism into his running style. While there is room for further improvement (as evident from his minor breakdown in pass protection prior to his touchdown run), the rookie is proving his worth to the Patriots’ running back corps. Whether it be power-sidestepping his way into the end zone, or showcasing his pass-catching abilities, Stevenson was a productive offensive weapon on Sunday against a tough Dallas defensive front.
Lesson Three: Add ‘resilient’ to the adjectives used to describe Mac Jones
Though many rookies would be irreparably despondent after throwing a backbreaking pick six, Mac Jones was not about to be denied retribution on Sunday. After failing to connect with receiver Kendrick Bourne, and finding Cowboys’ cornerback Trevon Diggs instead, the rookie once again sought Bourne in the open field. This time, the two would connect on a 75-yard touchdown, beating Diggs on a double move. Jones would also find Jakobi Meyers for the two-point conversion. Jones had put the Pats ahead by three points with just over two minutes to play in regulation. On the Pats first (and only) possession in overtime, Jones nearly connected with Nelson Agholor that might have broken for significant yardage, had the receiver not dropped the ball. While his performance was certainly not perfect, the 23-year-old displayed both confidence and resilience in shaking off his previous miscue to nearly lead his team to victory.
Lesson Four: Conservative play calling continues to prove costly for the Patriots
While a 2-4 record through six games will earn a team its share of criticism from fans and media alike, the Patriots coaching staff has come under fire for its conservative play calling; particularly on the offensive side of the ball. Pats’ offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels seems to be taking a cautious approach with Jones. While some of his strategy to date has been understandable, Sunday’s game plan may have been more egregious. His decision to give the ball to running back Brandon Bolden on a 3rd-and-1 near midfield seemingly cost the Pats a chance to continue their success in the passing game. At the time, Jones had completed all nine of his passes. Essentially, the Patriots needed an agressive, rather than conservative, approach to beat the Cowboys on Sunday. Instead, the Pats' tepid strategy may have been a notable factor in the team’s tough loss in Week Six.