Patriots clearly missing clutch gene with Cam Newton in charge
By Adam Weinrib
At a certain point, “bad luck” isn’t a satisfactory explanation anymore. Something is wrong with Cam Newton and the New England Patriots in tight games.
We hate to be the bearers of bad news, but as currently constructed, there’s a problem with the New England Patriots that simple personnel adjustments or roster tweaks can’t solve.
After 20 years of possessing the strongest clutch gene in the NFL, this new-look edition of the Pats has faltered time and again, specifically with very little time on the clock. We saw the tale as old as time (at least, as old as Week 1) play out yet again this week in Houston.
The Patriots lost a game they had no business losing to a 2-7 Texans team. They faced an 11-point halftime deficit, clawed back, had the ball with a chance to score the game-tying touchdown with four minutes left, and then — you’ll never guess — they didn’t.
This team is not one of the NFL’s worst, despite their myriad roster holes. Every week, a different offensive piece carries the load. Every week, the defense at least manages to hold back the opposition’s surge just enough to allow Cam Newton to claw back. And almost every week, they lose. That’s hard to reconcile.
Week 1 blowout win notwithstanding, we’ve seen a goal-line stand go the other way in Seattle, a fourth-quarter collapse by the backups in KC, a late sputter against the Broncos and the fumble to end all fumbles in Buffalo.
Any argument for a reversal of mojo in recent weeks was predicated on a walk-off kick against the winless Jets and the defense holding on in a monsoon against the slumping Ravens, a different situation entirely.
With all due respect, nah.
Blaming the Patriots’ failure in close games entirely on Newton is a harsh and unnecessary judgment. But when Tom Brady departed and gave way to a new era in New England, a lot of other things changed, too. The defense opted out en masse. If they weren’t part of that wave, they probably walked elsewhere and received significant raises (we see you, Kyle Van Noy). Julian Edelman finally succumbed to the injuries that dogged him throughout 2019.
The issue isn’t that Newton isn’t clutch — although yes, his final drives have lacked a certain Brady-level poise. The issue is that, with his arrival, plenty of the other things that made the Patriots the Patriots for 20 years went out the window, too.
And this halfway-there roster continued along its dull course on Sunday afternoon, unable to polish off a comeback with an exclamation point yet again. If the opposite had taken place, that would’ve been the surprise.
It wasn’t always that way. In fact, it was never that way.