The Patriots crushed the Chargers to keep their playoff hopes alive, but concerns remain.
The only aspect of the New England Patriots that is free from criticism for the remainder of the season is the special teams unit. Every fan can probably agree with that. As for the defense, it’s certainly starting to patch up some serious deficiencies, but we’ll know more about that on Thursday night against the Rams.
We’re happy to celebrate the 45-0 demolition of the Los Angeles Chargers that brought the Pats to 6-6 and right in the thick of the playoff race, but we can’t sit here and pretend everything’s dandy … especially with the offense.
A blistering performance from the defense and special teams, in a way, masked the offense’s struggles at large and pretty much gave Cam Newton and Co. the day off. You might look at the box score and say, “Wow! We rushed for 165 yards today,” but New England didn’t need to throw the ball. This game was out of reach for the Chargers starting in the middle of the second quarter.
By “efficient” offense, we’re talking runs between the tackles and short passes for positive yardage. We’ll take it, but against playoff-caliber defenses, we’ve seen how that works out. It’s not great. Newton threw the ball just 19 times, completing 12 passes for 69 yards and a touchdown while missing a few throws and having multiple screen plays blown up by the LA defense.
He wasn’t tested today. The receivers weren’t tested today. Like we said, it was essentially a bye week. All the offense had to do was not turn the ball over for, like, 40 minutes and this game was theirs.
Why is that a concern? Because Newton, who admitted he’s still learning the offense, needs as many battle-tested outings as he can get if we’re talking about contending for the playoffs and maybe going on a run. And with games against tough defenses in the Rams, Bills and Dolphins remaining, it’s no guarantee.
That right there is all you need to know. While it was great seeing contributions from so many other guys to make it a true team win, we didn’t get to see the offense rebound after a number of up-and-down weeks that haven’t displayed any sort of consistency or instilled confidence that multiple games in January could be realistic.
If Newton is still trying to grasp the offense, he doesn’t need 45-0 cakewalk wins. That’s not going to help him learn the playbook, audible on a crucial third down, or make the right read when the defense is bringing the blitz.
Nonetheless, Patriots fans can kick their feet up for the next three days. Sitting at 6-6 is just about as good as anyone could have imagined after that putrid four-game losing streak.
But we all need to be honest with ourselves. This Patriots team has yet to turn the corner in all facets of the game, and that will be instrumental in determining if they’re a playoff contender or not.