FOXBORO, Mass. — The New England Patriots’ downward spiral continued Sunday with a home loss to the undermanned Washington Commanders.

The Commanders, sellers at the NFL trade deadline earlier in the week, won 20-17 at Gillette Stadium, dropping the nosediving Patriots to 2-7 on the season.

New England had a chance to rally for a tying field goal in the final minutes, but a Mac Jones pass deflected off JuJu Smith-Schuster’s hands and straight to Jartavius Martin for a game-clinching interception.

The Patriots, who entered the week with the worst record in the AFC but opted not to sell at the deadline, now will head to Germany to take on the Indianapolis Colts next Sunday.

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Here are seven quick-reaction thoughts on Sunday’s Week 9 result:

1. Two key first-half turnovers
New England’s defense looked ugly at times in the opening half, especially on third down. But it delivered a pair of pivotal takeaways — one that set up the Patriots’ first points of the game and another that protected their lead just before halftime.

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The first came courtesy of Jahlani Tavai, who punched the ball out of running back Brian Robinson’s hands. Davon Godchaux recovered at the Commanders’ 25-yard line, and Jones hit Hunter Henry for a perfectly placed 14-yard touchdown two plays later.

The second was Kyle Dugger’s doing. After the Commanders marched deep into Patriots territory on a drive that included third-and-23 and third-and-10 conversions, a panicked Sam Howell fired a pass straight to Dugger in the end zone with seconds remaining in the half.

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2. Big play for Rhamondre
Rhamondre Stevenson finished with 87 rushing yards on nine carries, including a 64-yard touchdown dash that gave the Patriots a 14-10 second-quarter lead.

The 87 yards were a season high for Stevenson, and his 9.7 yards-per-carry clip was the best of his career. Stevenson also caught four of six targets for 42 yards, though he did have one drop.

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Stevenson wasn’t heavily involved as a rusher, however, continuing a recent trend. It was the fourth consecutive game in which he carried the ball 10 or fewer times. Ezekiel Elliott had 17 yards on six carries.

3. Late arrivals for two cornerbacks
The Patriots surprisingly chose to start Shaun Wade at one outside cornerback spot, with J.C. Jackson and Jack Jones both beginning the game on the bench.

Jackson did not play a snap until New England’s third defensive series (and also was not on the field for warmups). Jones didn’t see the field until the fourth drive. Neither was on the injury report this week, and there wouldn’t be any obvious game-planning advantage in sitting them behind Wade, who hadn’t played a defensive snap in three weeks.

Jackson saw significant playing time over the final three quarters. Jones got back in the mix for a spell but watched most of the second half from the sideline.

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New England’s secondary as a whole struggled with missed tackles and surrendered too many chunk plays, including a 33-yard touchdown pass to Jahan Dotson and several other big gainers that extended drives. Washington converted seven of its first 10 third downs, and Howell threw for 325 yards.

4. Still no call for Boutte
Two days after saying Kayshon Boutte had what probably was his best practice week of the season, Bill Belichick again made the rookie receiver inactive.

Boutte, who has not played since Week 1, continued his streak of healthy scratches. The LSU product was unable to crack the lineup even with Kendrick Bourne and DeVante Parker both out with injuries.

New England opted to play with just four wideouts: Demario Douglas, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Jalen Reagor and Tyquan Thornton, who appeared to be a game-time decision after being listed as questionable with a foot issue.

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5. Thornton benched
Thorton slotted back into the lineup after sitting out last week as a healthy scratch, and Jones frequently targeted him early in the game. But the last of the 2022 second-round draft pick’s four targets came less than four minutes into the second quarter, and he didn’t play at all after halftime.

Jones was visibly upset after his final pass to Thorton — a third-down incompletion — though it wasn’t clear whether his ire was directed at the young wideout. Thornton finished with one catch for 7 yards and has a total of three receptions for 15 yards this season.

As for the Patriots’ other receivers, Demario Douglas caught five of seven targets for a team-high 55 yards, and JuJu Smith-Schuster caught six of seven for 51 yards. It was a rough outing for Jalen Reagor, who got the start and played most of the game but finished with just one catch on six targets for 11 yards and let a deep ball slip through his hands.

6. Change at left tackle
Trent Brown, the Patriots’ best offensive lineman through the first eight weeks, missed Sunday’s game with knee and ankle issues. Elevated practice squadder Conor McDermott replaced him, making his first regular-season start at left tackle since Week 18 of the 2021 season

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The O-line generally protected Jones well against a Washington defense that traded away star pass rushers Chase Young and Montez Sweat earlier in the week, but McDermott was beaten around the corner for one punishing sack.

Edge rusher K.J. Henry drilled Jones from behind to force a fumble, but the Patriots were bailed out by a highly questionable roughing the passer penalty. Washington officially tallied zero sacks and just one quarterback hit in the win.

New England wound up kicking a field goal four plays later to go up 17-10.

7. Special teams woes return
This was a forgettable day for New England’s kicking game. The Patriots allowed a 37-yard return on the opening kickoff, had a punt sail into the end zone for a touchback, lost yardage on an ill-advised Douglas punt return were flagged for four penalties on fourth-quarter Commanders punts, including two on special teams standout Brenden Schooler.

Schooler was livid after the second — a holding call against a flopping Martin.

The Douglas return and Schooler penalties forced the Patriots’ offense to start their final three drives from their own 5-, 9- and 9-yard lines. There also was an offsides on Mack Wilson that extended a late Washington drive and forced New England to burn its final two timeouts.

Featured image via Paul Rutherford/USA TODAY Sports Images