New England Patriots players are entering unchartered waters six weeks into the season.
The Patriots haven’t had a losing record in October since 2002, Tom Brady’s first full season as New England’s starting quarterback. And Sunday’s 18-12 loss to the Denver Broncos puts the Patriots at 2-3 on the year.
The Patriots have had a trying season, especially over the last two weeks, and they’ve shown potential along the way, but there’s really no excusing their Week 6 loss to the offensively short-handed Broncos. They still should have beaten Denver even with just two practices over the last two weeks.
The Patriots’ defense successfully prevented Denver from scoring a touchdown, but did let them march down to kick six field goals. New England’s offense, with Cam Newton back under center, simply couldn’t catch up.
No one saw that coming.
Here are our top takeaways from Sunday’s loss. All advanced stats via PFF.
Overall, Cam Newton went 17-of-25 for 157 yards with two interceptions and four sacks. Wide receiver Julian Edelman also completed two passes on two targets for 38 yards.
Adjusted Completion Percentage
Of Newton’s eight incompletions, one was batted at the line of scrimmage. He had a 70.8 adjusted completion rate.
— Newton was just 0-of-1 on deep passes.
— Newton was under pressure on 14 dropbacks. He went 4-of-8 for 45 yards with an interception with pressure bearing down.
— Newton held the ball, on average, for just 2.78 seconds per dropback and 2.34 seconds per passing attempt. His average on the season is 2.8 seconds per dropback and 2.6 seconds per passing attempt.
— We’ll have much more on this later in the week, but how much longer can the Patriots bang their heads against the wall and keep trotting out wide receiver N’Keal Harry and tight end Ryan Izzo as starters without seeing what players like Jakobi Meyers, Devin Asiasi, Dalton Keene, Isaiah Zuber, Gunner Olszewski or Kristian Wilkerson could do with similar opportunities? Harry didn’t catch a pass on two targets. And the fact that he was targeted just twice all game is what’s most glaring. Izzo caught three passes for 38 yards but fumbled after a 16-yard reception.
— Here’s what it comes down to, though: The Patriots’ starting wide receivers and tight end are Damiere Byrd, Harry, 34-year-old Julian Edelman and Izzo. That’s bad. There’s no other way around it, and it makes you wonder how it got to this point since it was just as rough last season.
— Harry and Newton were not on the same page on the Patriots’ final offensive play as the pass traveled about five yards off the mark. Newton also was looking at Harry on a play earlier in the fourth quarter, and the two didn’t appear on the same page. Harry has the potential as a 2019 first-round pick. But it’s not clicking. It’s not working. Maybe the Patriots have a Travis Fulgham on their practice squad. They know what they have in Harry.
— Newton also wasn’t good as a passer for the second straight game. He currently seems to have an issue with passes batted at the line, and they’re turning into turnovers.
LT/LG Isaiah Wynn: two sacks, QB hit, two hurries
RG/RT Mike Onwenu: two hurries
RB James White: QB hit, hurry
LT/RT Justin Herron: sack
C Joe Thuney: QB hit
QB Cam Newton: sack
— Some context: The Patriots entered the game down starting center David Andrews (injured reserve) and right guard Shaq Mason (COVID-19/reserve). Backup center James Ferentz also is on the COVID-19/reserve list.
So, the Patriots put Herron, a rookie, at left tackle and Onwenu, another rookie, at right guard with Wynn, a left tackle, out of position at left guard, Thuney, a left guard, out of position at center and Jermaine Eluemunor at his usual right tackle spot. That was until Eluemunor left the game with an ankle injury.
That thrust Hjalte Froholdt, the Patriots’ No. 9 offensive lineman, in at right guard, pushing Onwenu to right tackle. The Patriots shifted with Wynn going to left tackle, Froholdt to left guard, Onwenu to right guard and Herron to right tackle in the second half.
Essentially, the Patriots’ offensive line finally reached its breaking point. And getting Andrews, Mason and Eluemunor back healthy will fix the issues they were having as pass and run blockers.
That doesn’t totally forgive Wynn’s issues, and that’s certainly something to monitor moving forward since he’s been extremely solid overall this season. He is dealing with a calf injury.
QB Cam Newton: 10 yards after contact per attempt, one avoided tackle
RB Rex Burkhead: 1.8 yards yards after contact per attempt, two avoided tackles
WR Julian Edelman: one avoided tackle
RB Damien Harris: 2.67 yards after contact per attempt, one avoided tackle
RB James White: 2 yards after contact per attempt, one avoided tackle
— Until the offensive line is healthy, it might not be worth looking too deep into these issues since the Patriots’ run game has been fantastic this season.
— Harris didn’t pop like he did in Week 4, however. We’re back to wondering if he’ll keep the lead job when Sony Michel returns off of injured reserve/COVID-19 reserve.
CB JC Jackson: two catches on five targets, 43 yards, interception, two pass breakups
CB Jason McCourty: 1-1, 41 yards
LB Ja’Whaun Bentley: 2-2, 34 yards
S Kyle Dugger: 2-3, 31 yards
SS Adrian Phillips: 1-1, 17 yards
CB Jonathan Jones: 1-7, 16 yards, INT, PBU
LB Anfernee Jennings: 1-1, 7 yards
CB Stephon Gilmore: 0-2
FS Devin McCourty: 0-1
— Jones, who split his time between slot cornerback and safety, had one of his best games as a Patriot. Jackson and Gilmore were also exceptional.
— Dugger took on a bigger role this week and looked solid at safety.
— Gilmore had a phantom holding penalty called on him in the end zone when it didn’t seem like he even clenched his fist. It was a completely bizarre call by officials.
Bentley: sack, QB hit
OLB Shilique Calhoun: QB hit, hurry
OLB John Simon: sack
DT Adam Butler: hurry
DE Deatrich Wise: hurry
— Patriots outside linebacker Chase Winovich played sparingly, totaling just 22 of a possible 64 defensive snaps. Rookie linebacker Anfernee Jennings (28 snaps) actually played more than Winovich.
— Calhoun also took on a greater role, seeing the field for 54 snaps.
Bentley: five stops, one missed tackle
Phillips: five stops, one missed tackle
Dugger: three stops
Jones: three stops
Simon: two stops, two missed tackles
DT Nick Thurman: stop
Devin McCourty: stop
S Terrence Brooks: missed tackle
— The Patriots let up 135 yards on 37 carries. Starting running back Phillip Lindsay totaled 101 yards on 23 carries.
— Considering the fact that the Patriots were down to just three defensive tackles with Byron Cowart on COVID-19/reserve and Beau Allen still on injured reserve, this certainly could have gone worse for the Patriots.
— Thurman, who was elevated from the practice squad, wound up playing 20 snaps. Veteran defensive tackle Lawrence Guy played his most snaps (49) of the season. Adam Butler, who got banged up in the game, managed 20 snaps.
— Jennings’ heavier use seemed to be related to the Patriots’ shallowness at defensive tackle. Jennings plays inside and outside linebacker and is a bigger body at 6-foot-3, 259 pounds.