What We Learned About Patriots’ Play-Calling Mystery In Panthers Game

Matty Play-caller?

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August 19

FOXBORO, Mass. — Friday night’s preseason game between the Patriots and Panthers largely was a snoozefest. Mac Jones and New England’s offense didn’t do much outside of one big play, and Carolina mostly played backups.

On, and there weren’t any more fights — although that’s probably a good thing. The Patriots won, 20-10, for those who care.

However, the game might’ve offered the most evidence yet that Matt Patricia is line to be the Patriots’ offensive play-caller. Like last week, we tracked Patricia, Joe Judge and Bill Belichick throughout the preseason matchup.

Here’s everything that stood out:

— Patricia worked closely with Jones and the receivers throughout warmups. Reminder: He’s listed as an offensive line coach.

— During Carolina’s first drive, Patricia stood near Patriots offensive linemen while Judge, listed as the quarterbacks coach, talked with the QBs.

— Patricia clearly called plays during New England’s first drive, which went absolutely nowhere. Judge stood roughly 20 yards away on the edge of the sideline. Belichick just sort of paced around.

— Last week, Patricia usually convened with Belichick and Judge before eventually talking with linemen after calling plays for Brian Hoyer. Center David Andrews, who was inactive, did the bulk of the O-line coaching for Patricia arrived. This time, Patricia went straight for the offensive linemen while Judge and Belichick spoke with the quarterbacks.

Worth noting: Assistant O-line coach Billy Yates didn’t appear to be on the sideline during the first half but was present during the second half. He also was absent during the first half last week before showing up after halftime. He might be starting games up in the booth, but that’s just speculation.

— New England’s second drive saw a repeat of the first, with Patricia clearly delivering plays to Jones.

— Judge and Patricia conferred after the drive before joining their respective position groups. Belichick wasn’t involved. Last week, all three huddled up after each of the Patriots’ first two drives.

— Patricia and Judge met up again roughly two minutes into the Panthers’ drive.

— Patricia called plays on the third drive, this time with Belichick standing right next to him. Belichick did his own thing on the first two drives.

Note: After a deep completion to Nelson Agholor moved the Patriots into the red zone, Judge replaced Belichick at Patricia’s side.

— Belichick, Patricia and Judge all huddled up after Ty Montgomery ran for a touchdown. Andrews coached the O-line until Patricia arrived.

— Patricia remained the play-caller when Hoyer replaced Jones in the second quarter. Belichick flipped through papers nearby.

— All three huddled up again after the Patriots punted. It didn’t last long, though, as Judge and Patricia both went to their position groups after roughly a minute.

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— This is when things got interesting. Patricia remained the play-caller when rookie quarterback Bailey Zappe entered the game. Last week, Judge delivered plays exclusively to Zappe.

— After Nick Folk kicked a field goal, Judge went to the quarterbacks while Patricia spoke with running backs. Patricia eventually made his way to the O-linemen.

— Patricia called plays with Zappe at quarterback for New England’s final drive of the first half.

— During a timeout in the third quarter, Belichick, Patricia and Judge all chatted with Zappe on the sideline. The collaboration continues.

— Patricia called plays for the rest of the second half. He did the job from start to finish.


We’ll leave it there because there’s no need to inundate you with further details on where Patricia, Judge and Belichick stood on the sideline. The most important thing is that Patricia called plays all game and very much looks like the offensive play-caller.

Could that change next week when the Patriots visit the Las Vegas Raiders? Sure, as you never know what kind of weirdness Belichick has up his sleeve. But, for now, it appears as if Patricia will be Josh McDaniels’ successor.

NESN.com’s coverage of New England Patriots preseason is presented by Cross Insurance, protecting your team since 1954.

Thumbnail photo via David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports Images
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