The Patriots lost their first two games due to a variety of issues, many of which unfortunately carried over from last season. There wasn’t one play, or one bad performance, in either contest that sent New England to a loss.

Still, there was one play in each game that, had it gone differently, might’ve led to a better outcome for the Patriots. And, in both cases, having someone like DeAndre Hopkins might’ve made the difference.

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In the first, Mac Jones hit rookie receiver Kayshon Boutte for a fourth-down conversion late in the fourth quarter against the Eagles. Had the play stood, the Pariots would’ve had the ball deep in Philadelphia territory while trailing by five with 29 seconds left. But the review showed Boutte failed to get both feet down before going out of bounds. Game over.

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It’s a play that Hopkins, whom the Patriots pursued early in the summer before he signed with the Titans, absolutely would’ve made. Instead, Jones was left to work with Boutte, who only was on the field because oft-injured DeVante Parker missed the game due to a knee issue.

By the way, we’re not being unfair. Patriots coaches themselves said Boutte should’ve gotten his feet down.

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That brings us to Sunday night, when another failure by a Patriots boundary receiver resulted in a bad play.

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Trailing 17-3 late in the third quarter against the Dolphins, Jones lobbed a 25-yard sideline pass for Parker that would’ve given New England the ball at Miami’s 5-yard line. But the pass was picked off by Xavien Howard, giving the Patriots their second turnover of the game inside Dolphins territory.

Our first inclination was to blame Jones for making a poor decision and throw in a big spot. Many shared the same take. But after repeat viewings, it’s hard to argue against Parker getting the majority of the blame. It was an incredibly soft route, and he made almost no effort toward preventing Howard from catching the ball.

Had the Patriots signed Hopkins, Parker most likely would’ve been the odd man out. And if Hopkins were on the field in that spot, there’s no way Howard would’ve completed the interception. And Hopkins probably would’ve come up with the catch.

The Patriots twice made Sunday night’s 24-17 loss a seven-point affair in the fourth quarter. A touchdown on that ill-fated third-quarter drive could’ve made a huge difference.

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None of this is to say that Hopkins would be a cure-all.

Yeah, the five-time Pro Bowler looked good in his first two games with Tennessee (11 catches for 105 yards), but he’s 31 years old with an injury history. There’s a good chance we’ll look up at the end of the season and say the Patriots and 30 other teams were wise to not overpay for Hopkins.

But you can’t escape the reality that New England doesn’t have enough talent at outside receiver. Parker is the Patriots’ No. 1 option, but he shouldn’t be, and the depth behind him isn’t pretty.

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The Patriots had a star receiver who was willing to join them this summer and didn’t want that much money. And they really could’ve used him in their first two games.

Featured image via Andrew Nelles/ TODAY Sports Images