Thanks to two decades of background, we had a pretty good wrap about who the New England Patriots were. With Tom Brady under center, you could never really count them out of any matchup until the clock literally had zeros across the board. They also were famous for winning the games they were supposed to win, with upsets becoming a rarity around Foxborough. It's that trait that we're still looking to see if these 2021 New England Patriots -- led by rookie quarterback Mac Jones -- have.
It'll be put to the test on Sunday when they roll into MetLife Stadium as a lofty six-point road favorite over Zach Wilson and the New York Jets. From the oddsmakers' point of view, this is a contest that the Patriots should win by a healthy margin. And there's a strong history that points to a win, especially when you look at Bill Belichick's record against rookie quarterbacks. Over his tenure as head coach in New England, Belichick-led Patriots teams are 26-6 against first-year signal-callers while allowing just 27 touchdowns and snatching 46 interceptions.
Sounds like a recipe for success in Week 2, right? Well, the Patriots had all the fixings for a victory last week against Miami -- with edges in time of possession, first downs, totals yards -- but were incapable of pulling out a win. It was a game that the Patriots should have -- and in another time would have -- won. So as they square up against New York, they'll step into another game where they should come out on the winning end. The question is whether or not this new version of the Patriots can make the layups when they are there. Through one game, they're a bit shaky in that department.
This game could also prove to be a sneaky must-win if the Patriots -- who spent $159.6 million in guaranteed money -- want to sniff the playoffs. Since 1990, teams that have started the season 0-2 have made the playoffs just 11.6% of the time. Even as they welcome a rookie quarterback into the NFL in Jones, New England spent big this offseason to be playing meaningful games in January. A loss on Sunday makes that less likely, so this is as much of a "must-win" as a Week 2 contest can be due to what it could mean for the rest of the season.
Here are some other news and notes that came across the wire this week in Foxborough.
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Bourne offers LaFleur expertise
The Patriots will get their first look at the revamped Jets on Sunday, led by first-year head coach Robert Saleh and Wilson. They'll also see Mike LaFleur, first-year offensive coordinator for New York, as well. Prior to taking this job, LaFleur was the passing game coordinator for the 49ers, a team that current Patriots receiver Kendrick Bourne was a part of.
He said this week that the Patriots coaching staff has asked him for insight into the Jets' offensive system led by LaFleur
"So giving them tips, and showing them landmarks that [the receivers] used to go to, stuff like that to kind of help them break on routes," Bourne said, via Andrew Callahan of the Boston Herald. "So yeah, they've been asking me questions, and I've been helping them a little bit."
Charlie Weis: Pats throwing more at Jones than Brady
Former Patriots offensive coordinator Charlie Weis gave his assessment of Jones' NFL debut and it once again brings the Brady comparisons -- fair or unfair -- into the forefront. Weis noted that the New England coaching staff is throwing more on Jones' plate than what they did when Brady was first coming up.
"There was a different strategy when Tommy started playing because we were loaded on defense. So the way we played at that time, at least when Tommy first started the year, was very conservative," Weis told WEEI's "The Greg Hill Show" Friday. "We were dinking and dunking, everyone was saying, 'The guy can't throw the ball down the field' because we weren't throwing the ball down the field. Obviously, the Patriots now are doing a lot more of exposing Mac to everything than we did to Tommy at the start of the year.
"Now, by the end of the year the guy is running two-minute to win the Super Bowl. Obviously, we went a long way from when he first went in there. Mac/the Patriots are ahead of the curve as far as all the stuff they are doing with him already in games where probably it took us half the season before we got there with Tommy."
One of the more viral moments from Jones' debut in Week 1 came when cameras caught him winking to former Patriots linebacker Elandon Roberts right before the snap. Jones later confirmed that he did, in fact, wink at Roberts, who was able to call out New England's play.
"That was just kind of fun and games," Jones said during his Wednesday presser. "They actually called out our play, so it was like, 'nice catch.'"