FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — Patriots coach Bill Belichick has said he usually gets a pretty good idea of what kind of football team he has around this time of year.
Leading up to Sunday’s game with the Dolphins, he wasn’t quite ready to make that assessment.
“I think we’re still working through it,” he said.
After a 31-17 loss to Miami, New England is still very much an enigma.
Much of the progress the Patriots seemed to make only a week ago during their win over defending AFC East champion Buffalo was erased.
Quarterback Mac Jones had yet another muddled performance, throwing touchdown passes, but also tossing his eighth interception of the season. It set up a field goal for the Dolphins and put the Patriots in a 17-7 halftime hole from which they never recovered.
It dropped the Patriots to 2-6, the worst record in the AFC.
“It’s not the record we want,” Jones said. “You don’t want to be in this position. But at the end of the day, we’re playing football and we've got to go out there and figure it out.”
In addition, the offense will be down one of its most productive players.
Receiver Kendrick Bourne is expected to be sidelined for the remainder of the season after tearing a ligament in his knee, according to a person with knowledge of the diagnosis. The person spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because Bourne’s status had not been announced.
Bourne remained on the turf after being tackled by Eli Apple following a catch on the first play of the fourth quarter and did not return.
It’s a big setback for the Patriots, who lost their most targeted receiver this season. Bourne’s 37 catches for 406 yards and four touchdowns are all team highs.
Digging out of the hole New England is currently in will now require possibly the best coaching job of Belichick’s career.
“He’s been in a lot of games, and he knows what it takes to be successful in this league,” tight end Hunter Henry said of his coach. “So you’ve got to rely on that, and I’ll lean in on that.”
If the Patriots are hoping to find some help via the draft, they are suddenly in position to land one of the top picks. In addition to being at the bottom of the AFC, they have the third-worst record in the league.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
New England’s defense. It has kept the Patriots in several games this season and for most of the day slowed the Dolphins’ dynamic offense.
But trailing by seven late in the fourth, a Patriots defense that entered ranked ninth against the pass was befuddled by Miami’s passing game when a blown coverage left receiver Jaylen Waddle wide open for a 31-yard touchdown to seal the Dolphins’ victory.
Waddle finished with seven catches for 121 yards, with Tyreek Hill adding eight catches for 112 yards. It marked the first time this season New England has allowed a receiver to reach the century mark.
WR JuJu Smith-Schuster. He was played out of necessity after Bourne’s injury and another one earlier in the game to DeVante Parker. Smith-Schuster caught only one pass, but it was for a 3-yard touchdown that pulled his team within 24-17 with 8:30 left.
Jones. He doesn’t seem to be learning from his miscues this season. He acknowledged after the game that his INT was the result of him being late releasing the ball. A replay of the throw also showed his weight was on his back foot, causing the ball to be underthrown and easily picked off by Jalen Ramsey.
Parker took a hard hit to his head from Miami's DeShon Elliott in the third quarter and didn’t return after being evaluated for a concussion. ... LB Ja’Whaun Bentley injured a hamstring in the second quarter and didn’t return. ... CB Myles Bryant was helped off the field with a hamstring injury.
0-6 — Belichick’s record against Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa .
The Patriots host the Washington Commanders on Sunday.
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