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Top Boston sports stories of 2022: New England Patriots edition

Patriots 1st Down: Will Pats keep season alive with win over Dolphins?
Patriots 1st Down: Will Pats keep season alive with win over Dolphins? 01:31

BOSTON -- We love our sports in Boston. Sometimes, we love them a little too much and let them ruin our day, week, or in some cases, an entire year.

The New England Patriots have garnered a wide array of emotions since the calendar changed to 2022, which actually started on a high note. That didn't last long though, as a few weeks into the new year, the team was blown out by the Buffalo Bills in the playoffs.

Since then, it hasn't been pretty for New England's football team. There's a mess on the sideline, leading to some messy football on the field. The promise of last year's 10-7 season dissipated quickly before the 2022 season even kicked off, and an up-and-down campaign has followed.

The Patriots still have postseason hopes, but they're on life support heading into Week 17. 

At least there have been plenty of wild storylines along the way. The Patriots have been involved in some extremely boring football games this year, but the team has provided plenty of drama to keep things interesting.

Here are the top stories surrounding the New England Patriots in 2022.

Blown out by the Bills

AFC Wild Card Playoffs - New England Patriots v Buffalo Bills
Buffalo Bills linebacker Matt Milano shoves Patriots quarterback Mac Jones during the third quarter in the AFC Wild Card playoff game at Highmark Stadium on January 15, 2022. Timothy T Ludwig / Getty Images

The calendar year started off well for the Patriots, with the team throttling the Jaguars 50-10 on Jan. 2. Then they lost to the Dolphins in Miami, 33-24, the following weekend to finish the season as a 10-7 Wild Card team.

That set up a Saturday night showdown with the Buffalo Bills, whom the Patriots beat in a wild and windy Buffalo a month prior. The playoff match would go much, much differently, as the Bills trounced the Patriots to the tune of 47-17. And it wasn't even that close. 

The Bills didn't punt once and scored a touchdown on their first seven possessions. The only time they didn't reach the end zone was when they had Mitch Trubisky take three knees at the end of the game.

It was ugly, and it showed just how far away the Patriots are compared to the Bills. Yikes.

Tom Brady doesn't thank New England

Tom Brady
  Tom Brady Shelley Lipton/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

For 40 days, Tom Brady was retired from football. We know that didn't last and he's back to slinging pigskins for the Buccaneers, but it was a pretty big deal when it was reported that Brady was set to announce his retirement on a snowy Saturday in New England. 

Brady himself didn't make the retirement official until a few days later, and he caused quite a stir when he did. He sent out an eight-slide story on Instagram thanking the Buccaneers, his Tampa teammates, Bucs ownership, the city of Tampa and the St. Petersburg region. 

But nowhere in the announcement did he thank the New England Patriots. Or Robert Kraft. Or Bill Belichick. Or New England fans. It caused folks in the region to lose their minds.

And it was all for naught, as Brady announced his comeback just over a month later. But when Brady does indeed retire for good, there's a good chance there will be some mention of the Patriots and New England the next time around.

A disaster of a coaching staff

Matt Patricia, Joe Judge, Bill Belichick
Matt Patricia, Joe Judge, Bill Belichick Barry Chin/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Josh McDaniels left for a second head coaching opportunity in Las Vegas, and took a handful of New England offensive assistants with him. Bill Belichick's solution to fill the McDaniels void was to hand over offensive control to Matt Patricia. As some added assistance with the matter, since Patricia had very little experience coaching offense, he brought back Joe Judge to be Mac Jones' quarterbacks coach, despite Judge never coaching quarterbacks before.

The results have been as bad as everyone expected in the summer. The New England offense is uninventive and, occasionally, non-existent. Jones has regressed in his second season and is letting his frustration show. Other players have called out the system as well.

It's been one big mess on offense this season, and the issues start with the coaching staff. Now the big storyline shifts to whether or not Belichick will make some wholesale changes on his offensive staff.

Zappe Fever

Detroit Lions v New England Patriots
Patriots quarterback Bailey Zappe. Nick Grace / Getty Images

It didn't help Jones' cause when he went down after Week 3 with an ankle injury and "Zappe Fever" gripped all of New England. The offense looked much better and operated much more smoothly with the rookie backup Bailey Zappe under center, albeit in a much more watered down offense. It looked even worse for Jones when he returned for just two uninspiring series in Week 7, and his return ended when he threw a pick-six to the Bears. Zappe came in and led the Patriots on two scoring drives to make it a game again, before Chicago blew out the Patriots in the second half.

Belichick finally backed Jones as the team's starter that following week, and Mac has been driving the offense since. But it was an unnecessary three weeks where people were comparing the current QB situation to Brady and Bledsoe of 2001.It turns out Bailey Zappe is not the next Tom Brady, and Mac Jones is not a Drew Bledsoe. 

But those are the kinds of conversations that fans have when their football team isn't very good.

A Strange pick

Cole Strange with Robert and Jonathan Kraft
Cole Strange with Robert and Jonathan Kraft Barry Chin/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

The Patriots owned the 21st overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, which Bill Belichick flipped to land the 29th, 94th, and 121st picks in the draft. The end of the first round is a prime spot to snag an offensive lineman, which Belichick has done that in the past, landing the likes of Logan Mankins and Isaiah Wynn late in the first round.

So it should be no surprise that Belichick used his first-round pick on an offensive lineman. But it's which offensive lineman he chose that created a kerfuffle around the NFL.

That lineman was guard Cole Strange. Out of Tennessee-Chattanooga. The selection caught many off guard, including the defending Super Bowl champions Rams, who thought they'd be able to get Stange at the end of Day 2. Sean McVay even had a good laugh about it.

The New England offensive line has struggled overall, but Strange has been mostly fine. He's had his ups and downs, as all rookies do, but Strange looks like he will develop into a reliable starter along the line.

Nightmare in Las Vegas

Patriots Raiders Football
Raiders defensive end Chandler Jones trucks New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones on his way to scoring the game-winning touchdown for Las Vegas in Week 15. John Locher / AP

The Patriots have had some really bad loses in 2022. But none of them will beat what happened in Week 15 in Las Vegas.

If only what happened in Vegas would actually stay in Vegas. But the shockwaves from New England's Dec. 18 loss to the Raiders will be felt the rest of the season.

The Patriots and the Raiders were tied in the final seconds when New England called for a harmless draw play. The game plan appeared to be to just run out the clock and head to overtime. But Rhamondre Stevenson saw a wall of Raiders and threw a lateral back to Jakobi Meyers. Meyers had nothing, and heaved the ball back to Mac Jones on the other side of the field.

Chandler Jones jumped in front of the ball, threw Mac to the turf, and rumbled 48 yards for the game-winning score for Las Vegas. The stunning loss dropped the Patriots to 7-7 and essentially sunk their postseason hopes. (The Pats are now 7-8 and have to win their final two games to sneak into the playoffs.)

In a season full of frustrating losses, this one takes the cake for the Patriots. The play itself will go down in NFL history as one of the biggest blunders to ever grace a football field.

The electrifying season of Marcus Jones 

The third-round pick is as electrifying as they come in the return game. He has just one special teams touchdown, but it was a near walk-off punt against the Jets to lift the Patriots to a Week 11 victory:

Jones is at or near the top of NFL return stats, but he isn't just a weapon on special teams. He was a secret weapon on offense early against the Bills in Week 13 and scored the team's only touchdown:

And on Christmas Eve against the Bengals, Jones added a defensive touchdown to his resume with a 69-yard pick-six off Joe Burrow.

Jones is just the fourth player in NFL history -- and first since 1947 -- to score a touchdown on a punt return, a reception, and an interception return in the same season. 

There aren't many bright spots on the Patriots this season. But Marcus Jones is one of them.

Here's to hoping for a better 2023 from the New England Patriots. Check back Friday for the Celtics edition of Top Boston Sports Stories of 2022.

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