Bean: Sunday’s win over Arizona was the worst of both worlds for the Pats originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
Sunday was the worst of both worlds from the Patriots.
Their play told us they probably aren’t going anywhere, yet the result moved them further away from a premium draft pick.
The Patriots struggled behind awful quarterback play en route to pulling off a minor upset over the Cardinals. It was your classic “ugly win,” and usually that’s a good thing.
These days, it isn’t.
Especially around these parts, an ugly win should be met with a sigh of relief, as the perennially playoff-bound Patriots are usually jockeying for a first-round bye. If you struggle and still get a victory in those circumstances, you feel fortunate to have gotten away with one, then fix what you need to fix.
This team, though? It’s a long shot to reach the postseason. If the Patriots are going to do that, they’ll need to be hitting their stride right about now. Running the table could probably get them in, but they’ll need to actually be a good enough team to do that.
Sunday gave no indication that this is a playoff team. Cam Newton was horrible (9-of-18 for 84 passing yards, no touchdowns and two picks with 46 yards on the ground), and while the defense was sound, special teams was New England’s saving grace. No Patriots fan, after years of seeing first-hand what legitimate teams look like, can feel that this team is good.
The Patriots won, though, giving them their fifth win of what will probably be a lost season.
The 2021 draft slot has been a popular talking point throughout the course of the season, and there’s got to be a ton of Pats fans who are sick of hearing about it. I get that, but this is a roster without a lot of strengths, and an organization that has been downright bad in the draft in recent years.
If we want to avoid more seasons like this one, the importance of the upcoming draft cannot be stressed enough. That means better decision-making, sure, bit it also can be aided by where the team selects.
Think about where the Patriots are right now. Winning hurts the draft pick, but it’s also supposed to mark progress. They’ve made so little of it, however, that Ben Volin was warranted in asking Bill Belichick after Sunday’s game whether he intended to stick with Newton as the team’s quarterback.
So the Patriots are 5-6, coming up on a game against a Chargers team that just does whatever it can to lose. I would pencil the Pats in for a win, but I did the same thing against a Texans team that had only beaten the Jaguars, and we saw what happened there.
Whatever the Patriots are doing by kind of staying alive is moderately entertaining. It’s the opposite of promising, though. This season isn’t finding New England its quarterback of the future. It isn’t developing receivers (well, maybe one — one — receiver) or tight ends. It isn’t leaving observers with that “they’ve got _____, now all they need to add is _____” feeling that losing teams might have at season’s end.
This isn’t a plea for anyone to try to lose. I’m saying that the Patriots are a bad team that has won some losable games, and for a team below .500, that doesn’t do them much good. The Patriots need to build something. They have the coach and ownership to do it, but there needs to be some sort of direction.
Struggling the way they have and still winding up with wins — but not enough to get you anywhere — is an easy way to lock into mediocrity.