The stat line is ugly. Jarrett Stidham completed just 5 of 13 passes for 60 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions in the New England Patriots quarterback’s first career meaningful NFL snaps.
And while Stidham was far from perfect Monday night in New England’s 26-10 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, his raw numbers — which will generate guffaws among Stidham mockers who didn’t bother to watch the Patriots’ Week 4 matchup — don’t tell the entire story.
Stidham played better than Patriots Week 4 starter Brian Hoyer, which admittedly is setting a low bar for the second-year pro. Hoyer made two unforgivable mistakes in the red zone, costing the Patriots at least six points in a winnable game by eating two sacks.
Stidham’s errors were more understandable. His first interception came on a drop by Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman, who is becoming less and less sure-handed by the season. Stidham said after the game his ball placement could have been better. Sure, that’s probably the case. But it was a catchable ball that shouldn’t have resulted in six points for the other team.
Stidham was under pressure on his second interception. He also underthrew Damiere Byrd who hung back and probably could have made a better fight for the pass. Still, that one was on Stidham as he forced a pass downfield as the Patriots trailed by 16 points with 3:32 left in the contest.
Here are all of Stidham’s throws, charted:
— Wide to N’Keal Harry on a corner route in the end zone
— Perfectly placed touchdown pass on a fade to a diving Harry
— Previously mentioned pick-six on a drop by Edelman on a flat route
— 12-yard completion on the move to Byrd on a comeback route
— Drop by tight end Ryan Izzo on a seam route
— Low incompletion, hit while throwing a screen pass to running back James White
— Well-placed ball on an inside-outside option route to Edelman for 8 yards on fourth-and-5
— Previously mentioned underthrown interception on the target to Byrd while under pressure
— 30-yard completion to wide-open Byrd in zone coverage on what turns into a scramble drill
— Throwaway while under pressure
— Drop by Edelman on a diving attempt
— Pass to Edelman batted at the line of scrimmage
— 6-yard screen to White
So, among Stidham’s eight incompletions, two passes were inaccurate, three were dropped, one was batted at the line, one came when he was hit while throwing and one was thrown away. That’s a 71.4% accuracy rate, which isn’t great but also is far from horrible. It’s certainly better than his raw numbers suggest.
Among Stidham’s completions, two — the touchdown and fourth-down conversion — were standout plays.
It’s enough to give Stidham a shot to start against the Denver Broncos if Cam Newton, who tested positive for COVID-19 on Friday, isn’t cleared by Sunday’s Week 5 matchup. Did Stidham’s performance live up to his preseason hype? No, but he was also put in a difficult position.
Newton practiced all week as the starter, and Stidham has been receiving No. 3 reps as the scout-team QB since the season began. He lost ground after a training camp injury and never made it up. The Patriots thought they knew what they had in Hoyer as a backup. Clearly, that’s not the case after watching him perform Monday night.
Stidham was thrust into the game late in the third quarter and did what he could while the Patriots’ offense was in desperation mode.
Perhaps we’re being too soft on Stidham. But it’s easy to be sympathetic given the circumstances. We’ll get a better sense of Stidham’s progress Sunday if he has to start in place of Newton against a 1-3 Broncos team.