The New England Patriots might have broken Sam Darnold on Monday night.
“I’m seeing ghosts,” Darnold said to himself on the sideline, in a moment that he probably wishes he wasn’t wearing a microphone for.
It’s not even surprising anymore. The names change, but the back-foot interceptions and general confusion have been a constant in the AFC East for almost two decades.
The New York Jets were absolutely horrendous in a 33-0 loss to the Patriots on Monday night. We’ve seen this story unfold too many times since Bill Belichick got the ball rolling on this Patriots dynasty. The Dolphins, Jets and Bills have played Larry, Moe and Curly as the Patriots stroll to division titles season after season. New England outscored the Jets and Dolphins 76-0 in their two road games against those teams this season.
Patriots haters like to say their success is due to playing in the AFC East. That’s not completely fair or accurate. But when you watch the rest of the AFC East do pratfalls like Monday night, it’s clear how much the incompetence from the rest of the division certainly has helped New England. Nobody else has had an easier path in their division through the years, and it’s amazing that has never changed. The NFL is set up for all teams to rebuild in a year or two, and the other three teams in the AFC East still can’t figure it out.
The AFC East has rarely challenged the Patriots
Here’s a fun game: Who is the second-best quarterback in the AFC East since 2001, the year Brady took over for Drew Bledsoe and won his first Super Bowl?
Brett Favre might be the answer with an asterisk. He played one season with the Jets. The best answer is probably Chad Pennington, and that says something. Jay Fiedler has an argument, and that might say even more.
The Bills are better this season, but they still lost at home to the Patriots already. The Dolphins and Jets are a combined 1-11.
Darnold was supposed to supply hope for the Jets, and he still might. He also was impossibly bad on Monday night. He had never thrown an interception against the blitz in his NFL career before Monday night. He threw three against Patriots’ blitzes on Monday, then added a fourth interception against a four-man rush for good measure. He was 11-of-32 for 86 yards, no touchdowns and four interceptions. Every interception was a terrible decision or throw by Darnold.
Darnold, the third pick of the 2018 draft, couldn’t have looked more confused. The Patriots’ pressure clearly affected him. At the end he was throwing passes to nobody over and over and ESPN’s Booger McFarland was wondering why Darnold was still in the game. Sending a young quarterback to face Belichick is never going to turn out well. Darnold will see blitz packages and disguised coverages in his sleep for a while.
The Patriots keep rolling to division titles
It’s hard to argue for anyone else as the best team in football other than the Patriots, but you’ll still hear that New England hasn’t played anyone. In fairness, it’s not their fault the rest of the AFC East has never figured out a plan.
Maybe the Bills can be the ones to finally push the Patriots. They seemingly have a steady coach in Sean McDermott and quarterback Josh Allen has talent. But a home loss to New England showed they aren’t there yet. At least they have hope. The Jets came in with a little preseason buzz but it’s not like Adam Gase is impressing anyone in his first year as their coach. The Dolphins have spent the first half of the season setting records for futility. Tom Brady might retire soon — or maybe not, as he defies 100 years of NFL history for quarterbacks in their 40s — and the rest of the AFC East still doesn’t seem ready to take advantage if he does.
Don’t worry Sam. The entire AFC East is seeing ghosts, and has been for almost 20 years.
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