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Opposition Research: Talking the Patriots with Evan Lazar

The Colts play the Panthers this Sunday at 9:30 a.m. The last time these teams squared off was in 2022, when the Patriots won 26-3.


Each week, will speak with a writer who covers the team the Colts are set to play that upcoming Sunday.

In Week 10, the Colts are facing the New England Patriots in Frankfurt, Germany. To gain more insight, we caught up with Evan Lazar, a staff writer for The Patriots' 2-7 start to the season is the worst it's had since 2000. What do you think has been a catalyst for the team's struggles up to this point?

Evan Lazar: The short answer to the question is personnel decisions by Belichick and the front office. With their two defensive blue-chip talents on injured reserve (Christian Gonzalez and Matthew Judon), the roster talent doesn't compare to teams who are competitive this season. In particular, this offense is sorely lacking impact players. Their best healthy receiver is sixth-round rookie Demario Douglas, their offensive line play has sunk their running game and flustered the quarterback, and Mac Jones doesn't have the talent to drive the bus himself. It's a roster that doesn't have much talent, with a head coach whose team-building philosophies might be outdated. The coaching has also taken a step back. Their fundamentals aren't as sound, and defense and special teams are mistake-prone, but the number one issue is personnel around a limited quarterback. A quarterback's third season is usually the time when they're expected to turn a corner. Midway through Mac Jones' third campaign, how would you describe his performance?

Evan Lazar: Very inconsistent to downright not good enough. Look, Mac doesn't have much to throw to and the line play was very bad to start the year. The offensive line has settled down, but he's still throwing to Jalen Reagor, Demario Douglas, and JuJu Smith-Schuster. Jones is sped up by the pressure, his footwork is very shaky, and he isn't being propped up by his receivers. You can't have a quarterback with limited physical tools without top playmakers around him. It's a losing combination. The Patriots' defense has been dealt some tough blows with injuries taking outside linebacker Matt Judon and rookie cornerback Christian Gonzalez out early this season. Who have you seen step up in their absence?

Evan Lazar: The best player on the Patriots roster over the last month is Christian Barmore. Barmore has a dozen stuffs in the last four games and added eight quarterback pressures against the Commanders. He combines a powerful upper body with a good first step to be a game-wrecker. Jabrill Peppers is also having a nice season as one of the highest grades safeties against the run and an enforcer in the middle of the field. So far this season, the Patriots are averaging 15 points per game, whereas the Colts' defense is allowing an average of 26.9 points per game. What will it take for the Patriots' offense to get the better of the Colts' defense?

Evan Lazar: Bill O'Brien out-scheming Gus Bradley. The Patriots aren't going to out-play anyone on talent alone. So it's on O'Brien to dress up their passing game with motion, play-action, and other tricks of the trade. The Pats have struggled mightily against man coverage, but the Colts play more zone than any defense in the NFL. Bradley seems reluctant to change his approach, so the Pats should be able to pass the ball. If they can't beat a zone defense, they're just not very good. No disrespect to the Colts. While it may not have much significance to the current roster, the Patriots have won its three previous international regular season games. Could Sunday's game in Germany be a turning point for the team if they can pull out a win?

Evan Lazar: I'd like to say yes. After all, they could go on a run in the final eight games and make their season interesting. But, unfortunately, the more likely scenario given the current climate of the locker room is they let go of the rope after a long trip and the temperature on Bill Belichick's seat will be even hotter.

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