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Tim Hasselbeck on K&C: Patriots must be 'panicked' after defensive breakdowns

Alex Reimer
October 02, 2017 - 8:41 am

ESPN NFL analyst Tim Hasselbeck isn’t ready to bury the Patriots yet. But he says there should be a sense of urgency inside Gillette Stadium this week following another home loss and putrid defensive performance against the Panthers.

In his weekly interview Monday with “Kirk & Callahan,” Hasselbeck explained why the Patriots’ play has been so unsettling. Remember, if Texans safety Corey Moore hung on to an errant throw from Tom Brady in the Patriots’ final drive two weeks ago, New England would be 1-3 right now. 

“Everyone has got to be panicked inside that building,” Hasselbeck said. “In year’s past, it seems so many games weren’t even competitive. These weren’t closely decided football games. If you’re looking at it now, it’s like, ‘Wait a minute, here.’ Sometimes there’s a little bit of being fortunate. 

“By and large, New England wins those close ones because they’re more prepared and better coaches. But it doesn’t seem like that when you watch them on defense. It really doesn’t.”

Once again, the Patriots’ secondary was plagued with numerous breakdowns, including on running back Fozzie Whittaker’s 28-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter. There wasn’t a single defender on the left side of the field. 

Cam Newton, who had struggled through the first three weeks of the season, lit the Patriots up for 316 yards and three touchdown passes.

“I blame the players. This stuff shouldn’t be that difficult,” Hasselbeck said. “You talk about the Fozzie Whittaker touchdown. Here’s what happened: they’ve got McCaffrey outside, (Stephon) Gilmore goes out, and they’re treating him a little bit like a wide receiver when he’s lined up outside Ed Dixon. So Gilmore is outside on McCaffrey, McCourty is inside on Dixon. Well, when McCaffrey goes into motion into the backfield, they’re trying to pass it off during the motion. So Gilmore is saying, ‘Somebody go take him, he’s on going the other side.’ Well, you can see McCourty kind of pointing the same way, thinking the safety on that side is going to pick him up and go to the middle of the field. So you literally had three guys –– the linebacker on the front side, McCourty and Gilmore –– all chasing Christian McCaffrey to that side of the field, which means they didn’t cover Ed Dixon on that side. Nor did they cover Fozzie Whittaker, who they wound up running the screen to.”

After one month of play, the Patriots have the worst defensive passer rating in the league. While some of the blame is destined to fall on the coaching, Hasselbeck says it’s mostly about the players.

“All I know is, they were wrong more than once,”he explained. “Ultimately it’s the players’ job to be responsible enough and know their assignments to know, ‘Hey, this is what I’m supposed to do.’”