I’m not going to put the blame all on Cam Newton here despite the way that game ended. This team is clearly just not that good and Newton’s top receiver yesterday was a former quarterback, and no I’m not talking about Julian Edelman. The offensive play calling was suspect at best. With all that being said, Newton hasn’t thrown a touchdown pass since Week 3. And I’m no NFL scout but it did look like Newton was laboring on a lot of his throws yesterday as he was still skipping passes on easy 5-10 yard routes. The offensive game plan yesterday was almost as if they were protecting Newton from himself. Newton was 15/25 with no touchdowns and no interceptions and there was almost nothing thrown deep. I looked at the drive charts for the Pats to see if my memory served me right and Newton had one completion of 28 yards, but that was thanks to a huge YAC play by James White. There was one medium range 22 yard completion to Damiere Byrd, but other than that there was nothing completed longer than 16 yards. So unsurprisingly the Bills were crowding the hell out of the box.
Meanwhile the Pats ran the ball 34 times, including 9 by Newton. So there was a lot of handing it off and more designed QB runs than we’ve seen in a while. I guess thats to be expected playing in the wind in Buffalo with two of your receivers out, but hey as Newton himself said the excuse basket is getting low. In the end the running was exactly what did them in as Newton failed to protect the ball while scrambling for a first and fumbled the game away.
To his credit he looked like he wanted to sit down in the shower and cry afterwards so I feel for him. But if you are unable to consistently move the ball through the air and are relying on your legs to make big plays then you have to protect the ball. The flashes this team showed on offense earlier in the season are now the Ghosts of Girlfriends Past.
I respect the hell out of the venom from FS1’s Tanya Ray Fox though. Say it louder for those in the back!
It only took Tom Brady leaving, no OTAs, no preseason, a bunch of starters opting out of the season, delayed games, weeks with no practice, Cam Newton getting and recovering from COVID, some bad weather and the world's stupidest fumble. Congrats on your big win, guys 🙃 https://t.co/BW3D2urnlk— Tanya Ray Fox (@TanyaRayFox) November 1, 2020
So we now have to ask ourselves, is it time to move on from the Cam Newton experiment?
Sitting at 2-5 and having suffered four losses in a row this team is moving in reverse. They’ve guaranteed their worst record since 2018 (won the Super Bowl btw) and thats assuming they win out. I don’t know about you but I have a hard time imagining this team ripping off a 9-0 run. If they lose one more game, it’s their worst record since 2009 when they went 10-6 and lost in the Wild Card round. If they lose 2 more games it’s their worst record since 2002 when they went 9-7 and missed the playoffs sandwiched between two SB titles. And if they lose any more than that it would be their worst record since 2000 when they went 5-11 in Belichick’s first year at the helm.
The Patriots are now 4 games behind the Bills and 2 games behind the Dolphins so any illusion of winning the division went up in smoke yesterday. It’ll be interesting to see what the team does at the trade deadline because as I said yesterday that Bills game could legitimately decide the direction of this franchise for the next two years.
Now I’m not excited for it, but I think its time to rip the Jarrett Stidham band-aid off and find out what exactly the Patriots have here. The team needs to figure out whether he’s the next guy or not. If that means trotting him out there for ritual sacrifice then so be it, but the Pats need to determine if Stidham can get it done. If not then they have to make a move this offseason. Theres 3-4 potential first round QBs likely coming out this year and the Patriots should be in a good position to get one of them, even if it’s not Trevor Lawrence or Justin Fields.
There’s also been rumors about the return of the prodigal son Jimmy Garoppolo since the 49ers have reportedly been meh on him as the QB of the future.
But he did re-injure his ankle last night and according to Schefter will be out “indefinitely.” That comes after having already missed 2 games and then getting pulled in his first game back. Garoppolo has only made 30 starts out of a possible 56 games in four years in San Francisco due to various injuries including a torn ACL. My point being, I would not be shocked if the Niners decide to move on from him after this season. So if you’re a Patriots fan do you still want him? Do you think Bill can rekindle whatever magic he thought he had with the young QB? I’m not so sure of that as I was just a week ago. Especially after this latest injury since Belichick loves to say the best ability is availability. Either way the Pats will undoubtedly be kicking the tires on anyone with an arm attached to their body this offseason.
The Patriots are in a tough position brought on by the greatest player of all time leaving town, but also from poor drafting over the last few years finally catching up to them. The Pats are one of the oldest teams in the league as a result. Think about it, all of their best players are on the wrong side of 30: Edelman, Stephon Gilmore, both McCourtys, Matthew Slater, plus all the guys who opted out.
The book is out on this year’s draft class, but offensive lineman Michael Onwenu may have been a steal in the 6th round as Pro Football Focus has him ranked as the No. 1 rookie in the league. It’s debatable how much stock to put into PFF rankings, but being No. 1 on any list is pretty damn good.
Michael Onwenu is @PFF's highest-graded rookie in 2020.— Austin Gayle (@PFF_AustinGayle) November 2, 2020
He's played 80+ snaps at three different positions along the offensive line.
Against Buffalo in Week 8, he put on a show at RT. pic.twitter.com/TVpzZgL8mf
The books is probably still out on last year too. Chase Winovich looks like a nice role player, Joejuan Williams has shown potential, as has Damien Harris (now that he’s on the field), but N’Keal Harry has been underwhelming and we may soon find out with Jarrett Stidham. 2018 highlights include Isaiah Wynn and Sony Michel. Sigh. Ja’Waun Bentley has flashed at times, other than that there was Ryan Izzo, Braxton Berrios, and Danny Etling as notable names that year. 2017 landed them Deatrich Wise and three whiffs. 2016 was the year they took Cyrus Jones with their first pick and he was an unmitigated disaster. They did draft Joe Thuney that year though who’s been great, Ted Karras has been a solid contributor on the OL, Jacoby Brissett filled in for a game, Elandon Roberts, and a huge what if player in Malcolm Mitchell who looked awesome before knee injuries prematurely ended his career.
So yea, 5 years and arguably two elite players in Thuney and *maybe* Onwenu, but it’s way too early to tell. Other than that Belichick has collected role players, which is a far cry from the 2010 draft he absolutely NAILED, picking up Devin McCourty, Gronk, Brandon Spikes, pre-murderous Aaron Hernandez, and even a starting punter in Zoltan Mesko.
It’s hard to build a team when you don’t have the greatest QB of all time helping to mask any deficiencies on the roster. The Pats definitely got screwed with the $13.5M in dead cap money from Brady leaving and this is what Belichick had to say today on the roster.
Bill Belichick on @OMFonWEEI: "I mean, look, we paid Cam Newton $1 million. It’s obvious that we didn’t have any money. It’s nobody’s fault. That’s what we did the last five years. We sold out. We won three Super Bowls, played in a fourth and played in an AFC Championship Game." pic.twitter.com/5LGeUboNGA— Zack Cox (@ZackCoxNESN) November 2, 2020
In Belichick’s defense we wrote about the Patriots “mess of a salary cap” last season, but I can promise you people do not want to hear about the cap as the reason for why this team is free falling.
I don’t say all this to be an alarmist, I say it to be pragmatic. This team is facing a tall order and needs to really nail their next series of moves and the next draft to set themselves up for a rebound. If nothing else do it to shut up the Fired Football Coaches of America chirping from the peanut gallery like Rex Ryan.
I was watching this live yesterday and Rex was trying to play it cool and say it matter of factly, but you could feel the simmering rage in his voice after getting beat like a drum by Belichick and Brady for years.— The 300s (@The300sBoston) November 2, 2020
People jumping in line to kick the #Patriots when their down. https://t.co/qQPcdbuQFw pic.twitter.com/u8jyuBm5zE
I’m sure Belichick is taking names as he builds the next great Patriots team for what is likely the final act of his career.