The Patriots don’t stand a chance at making a playoffs if the offense doesn’t become more clinical.
Let’s start by saying that the New England Patriots deserve all the credit in the world for their 45-0 trouncing of the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday. The offense, though it didn’t have to do much of anything, played mistake-free football and controlled the tempo of the game.
The defense, meanwhile, pitched their first shutout of the season, and the special teams unit contributed with two touchdowns in the second quarter that really put the game out of reach before halftime.
However, just because this was the Patriots’ most complete performance of the season and they can finally consider themselves a factor in the crowded AFC playoff picture doesn’t mean we can sit here and pretend like we actually learned something from the game, unless you didn’t know Bill Belichick could run circles around Anthony Lynn.
In fact, the most concerning takeaway is what we didn’t learn about the offense, which essentially had a bye week thanks to the Patriots jumping out to a 28-0 halftime lead. While the defense proved it can stymie an elite offense, the offense has yet to prove that it can do the same against an elite defense.
For the game, Cam Newton finished 12-of-19 for 69 yards and one touchdown. We know that’s a small sample size and the coaching staff exercised caution after establishing a big lead early on, but averaging 5.7 yards per completion against a pedestrian defense is just a microcosm of the struggles of the passing game.
Don’t let the blowout win blind you from the fact that Newton threw for just 84 yards (and two interceptions) last Sunday against Arizona in a squeaker. The 31-year-old quarterback admitted to reporters last week that he’s still learning the offense and this game served as the perfect opportunity to enhance his familiarity with it.
Instead, however, Newton largely took the afternoon off, and we don’t have an increased level of confidence heading into the make-or-break part of the season with dates against the Rams, Bills and Dolphins — all of whom have stingy defenses — still remaining on the schedule.
Had we seen Newton withstand hits and complete passes or make pre-snap audibles after picking something up from the defense that led to big gains, this wouldn’t even be a discussion. Since we didn’t, there’s just no way to know what the offense will look like moving forward.
What we do know, however, is that the Patriots can kiss their playoff hopes goodbye if they have to continue to rely on the defense to bail them against tougher opponents.