Analysis: Bill Belichick seems lost without Tom Brady, Sean Payton off to a disastrous start


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Bill Belichick is lost without Tom Brady. Sean Payton is off to a disastrous start in his return to the sideline.

Two of the NFL’s most accomplished coaches had another rough Sunday.

The New England Patriots (1-4) followed up the worst loss in Belichick’s coaching career with the biggest home shutout in franchise history. Quarterback Mac Jones and the rest of the offense were terrible in a 34-0 loss to the New Orleans Saints.

The Denver Broncos (1-4) didn’t have their coach’s back in a grudge match against the New York Jets. Russell Wilson’s fumble in the final minute was returned for a game-sealing score as the Jets beat the Broncos 31-21, giving offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett a satisfying win over Payton.

Between 2011-2015, the Patriots and Broncos faced off three times in the playoffs, including a couple of AFC title games.

Now, both teams seem headed for a battle for a top draft pick.

The Patriots are 26-30, including a playoff loss, since Brady left New England after the 2019 season. Brady went on to win his seventh Super Bowl in Tampa Bay and has retired. Belichick and the Patriots haven’t been the same.

Over his coaching career, Belichick is 81-94 in games Brady hasn’t started. It’s hard to imagine he’d be on the hot seat but the Patriots aren’t even competitive anymore. They’ve been outscored 72-3 over the past two games.

“Obviously, it was a poor performance today here,” Belichick said. “So, just plain and simple, we’ve got to find a way to play and coach better than that. 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.”

Jones led the Patriots to a 10-7 record in a promising rookie year but it’s been downhill since for the 2021 first-round pick. Bailey Zappe replaced him to finish the last two games, though Belichick didn’t say he was making a change at starter.

“Go back to the fundamentals and keep it in the simplest form,” said Patriots center David Andrews, who snapped to Brady in two of the Super Bowl victories. “It’s tough. We put a lot into it each week, and to go out there and not put your best foot forward on Sunday is tough. We’ve got to come in and get back to work. That’s really all I know to do. We can’t lay down, can’t quit. It’s a long year. We’re going to come back in and go back to work.”

Hard work might not be good enough for this team. They lack talent and have poor coaching.

The Patriots play at Las Vegas next week and have difficult games against Buffalo and Miami after that. At this point, 2-6 might be optimistic.

The schedule doesn’t help the Broncos, either. They face the defending Super Bowl champion Chiefs in two of the next three games, including Thursday night in Kansas City. They also have to play Green Bay and Buffalo over the next four games.

Payton, who led the Saints to one Super Bowl title in 16 years before stepping down after the 2021 season, may wish he stayed retired. Payton left a broadcasting gig to try to rescue the Broncos after Hackett had a dismal season with Wilson in Denver.

In training camp, Payton said Hackett’s year “might have been one of the worst coaching jobs in the history of the NFL.”

Hackett got the final word.

“I have to do a better job. It starts with me,” Payton said after Zach Wilson led Hackett’s offense to 407 total yards.

Denver had a chance to win two other close losses in the first two weeks, 17-16 to the Raiders and 35-33 to the Commanders.

“We really should and could be 4-1,” Wilson said. “But ‘coulda, shoulda, woulda’ is not good enough. The good thing about it and the perspective of it all is that, as we continue to go throughout the season, it’s a journey. There’s still a lot of good things ahead. We really believe that. We showed a lot of energy today. We did a lot of good things. We just can’t hurt ourselves. That’s the biggest thing. Those three, four games that we’ve lost, we’ve hurt ourselves in some form or fashion. The best thing that we can do is continue to learn, continue to get better, stay focused on what’s next and that’s us going on the road.”

Hard to imagine a road trip to Arrowhead will result in anything better.



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