FOXBOROUGH — Patriots center David Andrews sat at his locker with his head in his hands. While most of his teammates showered or finished getting dressed, Andrews stayed hunched over and rubbed his eyes.
Andrews, a longtime captain, had just finished speaking to the media, doing his best to address an ugly 34-0 loss to the New Orleans Saints. In his postgame remarks, Andrews spoke about the need to start over and return to the fundamentals, the need to push forward.
“That’s really all I know to do,” he said. “You can’t lay down. You can’t quit it. It’s a long year. We’re going to come back in and go back to work.”
In the moments later, though, Andrews looked dejected as ever. The defeat dropped the Patriots to 1-4 for the first time since 2000. Following a 38-3 blowout loss to the Dallas Cowboys last week, Sunday’s game could have been an opportunity for the Patriots to get back on track. Instead, they regressed.
“There’s nothing I can do, standing up here, to change what happened out there today,” Andrews said. “The only opportunity we got now is tomorrow, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday to try to correct it.”
But six days does not seem nearly enough time to rectify the widespread issues plaguing the team.
Look at how they opened the game: Jabrill Peppers fair-caught a punt at the 5-yard line instead of letting the ball bounce into the end zone for a touchback. The offense proceeded to go three and out, with quarterback Mac Jones misfiring badly on his two pass attempts. Joe Cardona, one of the highest-paid long snappers in the league, then botched the snap to rookie Bryce Baringer, who shanked a punt 26 yards.
The second possession ended even worse. Jones’s first completion went to Saints safety Tyrann Mathieu, who intercepted a limp, ill-advised throw and returned the ball 27 yards for a touchdown. It was Jones’s fourth pick-6 of the season.
The turnover put the Patriots in an early 7-0 hole, one that would balloon to 21-0 by the end of the first half. The Saints, who averaged 15.5 points through their first four games, racked up season-high 31 points, 17 of which were scored off turnovers.
After stressing the importance of avoiding early deficits, the Patriots fell behind by double digits for the fourth time in five games.
“Definitely don’t want to start like that,” Jones said. “It’s been a trend here.”
Jones completed 12 of 22 pass attempts for 110 yards and threw two interceptions before getting pulled for backup Bailey Zappe for the second straight week. He was also credited with a fumble after a bad toss intended for Rhamondre Stevenson was recovered by Saints defensive end Cam Jordan in the third quarter.
Before Jones got benched, the Patriots converted just eight first downs — three aided by penalties. Five of his drives ended in three plays. The Gillette Stadium crowd booed the Patriots off the field at halftime. And the boos became progressively louder throughout the game, with cheers breaking out only when Zappe entered the game.
Asked if Jones will remain the starter, coach Bill Belichick acknowledged the issues extend beyond quarterback play.
“There were a lot of problems,” Belichick said. “It certainly wasn’t all him.”
Perhaps that’s the most overwhelming concern as the Patriots stare down the remainder of the season. Their problems are not confined.
Jones has played terribly the past two weeks. But so has the offensive line, which is allowing pressure on nearly 50 percent of the snaps. Even though Jones was only sacked twice, he was repeatedly under duress. Making matters worse, starting right guard Michael Onwenu could not finish the game because of an ankle injury.
Rookie kicker Chad Ryland missed a 48-yard field goal attempt at the end of the first quarter. Ryland, drafted in the fourth round this year, is now 4 of 8 this season. All but one of his tries have come from at least 48 yards, but leg strength was part of the reason the Patriots selected and stuck with Ryland. His accuracy needs to improve, especially given how difficult scoring has become for the Patriots.
The defense, once considered New England’s strength, gave up three touchdowns to a Saints offense that entered the game ranked lower than the Patriots in several statistical categories. The Saints rushed for a season-high 136 yards, while quarterback Derek Carr, still dealing with a shoulder injury, completed 69.2 percent of his passes for 183 yards.
New Orleans, which entered with the worst red zone conversion percentage in the league, scored touchdowns on all three trips inside New England’s 20-yard line.
“Just plain and simply, we’ve got to find a way to play and coach better than that,” Belichick said. “So, that’s what we are going to do. Start all over and get back on a better track than we’re on right now.”
The concept of starting over seemed to be the overarching message coming. But the 1-4 Patriots don’t have much time to reset and find answers. Up next is a road trip against old friend Josh McDaniels and the Las Vegas Raiders, followed by two divisional matchups against Buffalo and Miami.
Andrews, for his part, is doing his best to push through in hopes his teammates follow.
“I don’t know anything else to do but come back to work, work hard, push, and try and do everything I can to put our best performance out there Sunday,” he said. “That’s what I’m going to try to do this week, and I think we’ve got a lot of people in the locker room that are going to try to do that.”
Read more Patriots coverage:
- Tara Sullivan: Mac Jones is not the only problem, but he’s not the answer at quarterback for the inept Patriots
- Patriots offense hits historic lows in Sunday’s loss to the Saints
- Instant Analysis: The Patriots didn’t just lose to the Saints. Bill Belichick gave up.
- Patriots shut out in an ugly loss to Saints that drops them to 1-4