FOXBORO, Mass. — The Bill Belichick era began in earnest on a snow-covered Foxboro field in January 2002. It might have ended Sunday in similar conditions at Gillette Stadium.

The Patriots lost to the New York Jets 17-3 on Sunday to close out both their 2023 season and, perhaps, the tenures of their head coach and several notable New England players.

New York never trailed in the game and put New England away with a 50-yard Breece Hall touchdown run with 1:47 remaining.

The loss snapped a 15-game winning streak for the Patriots over the Jets. They finished with a 4-13 record and now will enter and offseason that could radically alter the look of this storied franchise.

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1. Goodbye, Bill?
Was this Belichick’s final game as Patriots head coach? We won’t know the answer to that question until after he meets with team owner Robert Kraft and president Jonathan Kraft this week to discuss his future.

Multiple reports have suggested an exit is likely. Others indicated Belichick could win over the Krafts and keep his job if he’s willing to give up personnel control.

    What do you think?  Leave a comment.

Either way, there was no recognition Sunday from Belichick or the sparse crowd that braved the wintery weather to watch this ugly season finale. No chants, no ovation, no wave. Just another humbling defeat in a season full of them.

2. What it means for the pick
With the loss, the Patriots are guaranteed to receive no lower than the third overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft. And, with the New Orleans Saints beating the Atlanta Falcons, New England only can jump up to No. 2 if the Washington Commanders upset the Dallas Cowboys in Sunday’s late-afternoon window. Washington chose to sit many of its starters for that game, so No. 3 is the most likely landing spot for New England.

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That means the Patriots will have the opportunity to draft one of this year’s top three quarterback prospects (USC’s Caleb Williams, North Carolina’s Drake Maye and LSU’s Jayden Daniels) or, if they want to address their QB need later, an elite pass-catcher like Ohio State’s Marvin Harrison Jr.

We’ll spend the next several months digging into how the Patriots should use that premium selection, which will be the franchise’s highest since it took Drew Bledsoe first overall in 1993.

3. Slater’s swan song?
He wouldn’t admit it this week, but this game had an unmistakable sense of finality for longtime special teams captain Matthew Slater.

Players and coaches wore commemorative hoodies with his No. 18 and the words “The Patriot” and “Captain” emblazoned on them during pregame warmups. Slater shared an emotional embrace with his parents before the game. Patriots legends like Tom Brady and Julian Edelman shared tributes to the 38-year-old on social media.

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Then, in a touching tribute to the ace gunner, the Patriots and Jets opened the game with four consecutive punts.

Slater never got his Doug Flutie drop kick moment, but the 38-year-old saw plenty of playing time as nearly every drive for the first three quarters ended with a punt or field-goal attempt.

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4. Mac Jones demoted
After five games as Bailey Zappe’s primary backup, the Patriots dropped Jones down to third string on Sunday. The former New England starter served as the emergency third QB behind Zappe and Nathan Rourke, a former Canadian Football League star who joined the Patriots in mid-December.

Essentially sitting Jones — he only would have been eligible to play if Zappe and Rourke both were hurt — ensured the third-year signal-caller wouldn’t suffer an injury that could complicate a possible offseason trade.

Was this Jones’ final day in a Patriots uniform? The 2021 first-round pick has one year remaining on his rookie contract, but he and the team both could benefit from a fresh start in 2024.

5. Nonexistent offense
Sunday’s game was played in a real-life snow globe, and New England’s Zappe-led offense spent most of it frozen in place.

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The Patriots gained just two first downs before halftime, their fewest in any first half since Week 4 of the 2016 season, when they had an injured Jacoby Brissett starting at QB. They totaled -7 yards in the first quarter, and their only first-half points came on a 30-yard Chad Ryland field goal.

The second half was no better: eight drives, four first downs, no points. Zappe finished 12-for-30 for 88 yards with two interceptions and was sacked seven times in what might have been his final start for the Patriots. The six first downs were a new low mark in the Belichick era.

The Patriots held opponents to 17 or fewer points five times this season and somehow went 1-4 in those games. Improving the offense — especially at quarterback, wide receiver and offensive tackle — needs to be the No. 1 offensive priority.

New England’s defense held quarterback Trevor Siemian to 70 passing yards but struggled to corral running back Breece Hall, who rushed for 178 yards and a touchdown on 37 attempts.

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6. Snow!
Iconic snow games were commonplace during the early years of the Patriots dynasty. But entering Sunday, New England hadn’t played one at Gillette Stadium since Brady’s 59-0 beatdown of the Tennessee Titans in 2009.

That 14-year drought finally ended here against the Jets, with a winter storm pounding Foxboro throughout the afternoon. The field was covered in snow by the second quarter, and the conditions did not relent until late in the game.

New England Patriots quarterback Bailey Zappe
Brian Fluharty/USA TODAY Sports Images
New York Jets running back Breece Hall
Brian Fluharty/USA TODAY Sports Images

Stadium staffers had to use snowblowers to clear off the yard lines during each timeout. Less than half of the venue’s 65,878 seats were filled, and the fans who did show up were treated to a winter blunderland that featured nearly as many punts (16) as points (20).

It was the Patriots’ first-ever home loss in the snow.

Featured image via David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports Images