The Patriots’ loss to Denver on Sunday proves they have a lot more to worry about than COVID-19.
Well, that wasn’t a fun watch.
The Patriots came into Sunday’s matchup against Denver as heavy favorites, but for three quarters they looked as if they didn’t belong on the same field as the injury-riddled AFC West side, faltering to the tune of a 18-12 defeat despite not allowing a touchdown.
Cam Newton returned to the field following a bout with COVID-19, and his lengthy layoff showed, as he finished 17-of-25 for 157 yards and zero touchdowns compared to two interceptions (though both were tipped). The 31-year-old quarterback only practiced once this week due to the Patriots closing their facilities in light of more positive tests, and he looked like a player that had been away from the team for several days.
It would be easy for fans to blame New England’s loss on a lack of preparation, but you know head coach Bill Belichick isn’t using that as an excuse. The fact of the matter is that the Patriots offense has a ton of question marks and you really have to wonder what their ceiling is moving forward.
Losing a game in which you don’t concede a TD is simply unheard of for a Belichick-coached team, and Sunday’s defeat was actually the first time that happened under his tutelage. Care to guess their record in those games entering Week 6? 39-0.
For as bad as he was through the air, it would be wrong of us to put the blame squarely on Newton’s shoulders. Not only was he pressured seemingly every time he dropped back to pass, but his receivers created hardly any separation from Denver’s secondary.
Outside of running back James White, who led the team with eight receptions for 65 yards, no Patriots receiver logged more than 38 receiving yards. Sure, Newton missed some passes — the most egregious being an under-thrown deep ball to a wide open Damiere Byrd in the fourth quarter that would’ve given the Patriots the lead had it been completed — but those stats simply speak volumes to their lack of dynamism at the WR position.
It pains us to admit it, but this game really gave opposing team’s a foolproof blueprint to beat New England: Stop the rushing attack and force Newton to beat you with his arm. As much as the former MVP struggles throwing the ball downfield, that’s more of an indictment on the Patriots’ lackluster receiving corps — and incredibly injured offensive line — than it is on him.
Then again, the defense could barely keep the Broncos in check when the Patriots needed it most. Yes, it looks good that they didn’t allow a touchdown, but the Broncos rushed for 135 yards, scored points on all six of their first drives, and didn’t punt until the fourth quarter. If not for two bone-headed late Drew Lock interceptions, this really is an 18-3 victory for Denver.
We don’t want to press the panic button just yet, but Sunday’s loss to an inferior Broncos team proved that the Patriots have a lot more to worry about this season than just COVID-19.