I know that headline is the definition of first world problems and every Jets, Bills, and Dolphins fan in America is probably reaching for the closest pencil to stab me in the eye with. BUT, that doesn’t change the fact that in the midst of a bizarre, start and stop, don’t say it don’t say it don’t say it UNPRECEDENTED season, the Patriots officially have a losing record this late in the year for the first time since 2002! That is WEIRD! A lot of factors have gone into that, mainly the greatest quarterback of all time leaving town, but also this goddamn pandemic screwing with rosters and schedules all across the league.
I mean the Patriots have played all three of their QBs at various points this year and Cam Newton just missed the better part of the last two weeks of practice after a positive COVID test. Add in the fact that the Pats are dealing with injuries/other COVID issues and the team was forced to roll out some Papier-mâché amalgam of an offensive line unit yesterday. Newton was mostly mediocre throwing the ball yesterday with 2 picks and only completing 17 passes all day. In fairness, Newton has completed 15, 30, 17, and 17 passes in each game he’s played in this year so it wasn’t a disastrous drop off, but he did have his worst QB Rating of the year by far at 51.6.
Newton did rush for 76 yards and a TD though, including a 30+ yard run where he stiff armed the shit out of a defender at the end.
Another thing that stuck out to me was the decision to go for 2 instead of just kicking the extra point after scoring to put the game within 9. That was head scratching. If they just kick the XP then they’re only down 8 points, but failing to get the 2 point conversion put the Pats down by 9, which requires them to score twice to come back. Now I know the analytics stat heads say it’s actually smart because getting that play out of the way affects the game script and the team then knows they need two scores regardless, instead of banking on getting a 2 point conversion at the end and leaving yourself no time. I’m not a math or economics guy so I don’t want to sound like a disgruntled scout at the Moneyball table, but that sounds like a bunch of malarkey to me. Luckily it ended up not hurting them after Drew Lock melted and threw two picks to put the Pats right back in the game.
They only lost by 6 so it’s a moot point, but still seemed like an instance of the Pats overthinking things.
Now do we give Josh McDaniels credit for being in his bag with all the trick plays down the stretch yesterday?
Or do we rightfully give him and Cam shit for being incapable of moving the ball against a team that just barely beat the Jets the week before? I mean you never want to say it’s a waste if it works, but it didn’t result in a win so it’s kind of a waste to call all these trick plays against the goddamn Broncos because now it’s on film for future opponents to study. The element of surprise is what makes these plays work, despite the fact that I’m almost positive the Pats tried to run this same exact play on the prior series when Edelman got immediately tackled for a 2 yard loss.
I’m pretty sure the play where Newton went out for the reception is the same one that Brady got hurt on last year too. So it just goes to show the stark contrast of this year’s team vs last year’s; there are certain areas where Newton has helped tremendously as Brady nearly broke his leg on that same trick play last year. But the Pats are in a lot more rock fights this year and are just looking to keep opposing teams under 20 points as they’ve become much more reliant on the running game, the defense, and sleight of hand.
I want to err on the side of patience considering Newton and the team barely practiced the last week or two, but hey the same thing happened to the Titans after they flipped the bird to COVID protocols and they rolled in their first game back after essentially zero practices. So who the hell knows what to expect from this team, but I do know there is potential for an elite unit there. Just look back 3 weeks to the Seattle game, which they lost, but Newton went off for 397 yards and 1 TD plus 47 yards and 2 TDs on the ground. So if the Pats can get it together and find some semblance of consistency, which is easier said than done in these UNPRECEDENTED TIMES, then they can be dangerous.
Random Silver Lining of the Day
Cam Newton is in fact not afraid to dive into the pile to recover a fumble, despite sports talk radio hosts roasting Newton about that for weeks after signing with the Pats. Forgetting the fact that the moment in question was one play in a game that happened nearly 5 years ago. This was actually a huge moment that kept the Patriots’ slim chances alive. Cam didn’t play great, but it wasn’t for a lack of grit.