The New England Patriots very easily could be sitting at 5-2 instead of 2-5 as they inch closer to midseason and out of playoff contention.
That isn’t a statement meant to make Patriots fans feel better. The team definitely feels more like a 2-5 team than one that would be leading their division, but it is a fact.
If quarterback Cam Newton had scored from 1-yard out against the Seattle Seahawks in the final seconds of their Week 2 matchup, then the Patriots would have won that game.
If Newton had thrown an accurate pass to wide receiver N’Keal Harry with a minute to go in New England’s Week 6 matchup with the Denver Broncos, then the Patriots could have won that game.
If Newton hadn’t fumbled the ball away from Buffalo’s 14-yard line with 37 second left in New England’s 24-21 loss to the Bills, then the Patriots could have won this game.
So, now the Patriots are longshots to make the NFL postseason. The Athletic’s Jeff Howe did the research, and only seven teams out of 144 that have started the season 2-5 since 1990 have made the playoffs. Granted, an additional postseason spot was added this season, so the Patriots might have a slightly higher than 4.8 percent chance of making the postseason.
Still, it’s not looking great.
And while it’s harsh to pile on Newton too hard after the Patriots QB certainly showed improvements Sunday, it’s also easy to point the finger after the Patriots have failed to successfully convert on three fourth-quarter comeback attempts.
“To have three different games where we got an opportunity to win — I think early in the season we talked about it, it’s encouraging,” Patriots safety Devin McCourty said Sunday. “We knew we just had to get better and try to close those out. But now as you continue to go on, it’s frustrating. We’ve just got to find a way to win these games. We’re right there. We just have to find ways. It’s one or two plays. It’s defensively us getting the ball back faster for the offense.”
There are certainly many elements that go into losses. But Newton has had chances to lead his team to victory in critical situations and come up short. And while there’s probably nothing differently the Patriots could have done about this situation this offseason, it is also easy to wonder how those specific results might have been different if Tom Brady was still at quarterback. And fans probably weren’t experiencing that familiar feeling when the Patriots’ offense took the field down 24-21 with four minutes left in the fourth quarter.
This team, this offense, this quarterback just can’t finish like they could in the past.
Newton continues to say all the right things. But at a certain point, it doesn’t really matter if he continues to hold himself accountable if he’s not producing the desired result.
He’s now 103-of-150 for 1,124 yards with two touchdowns and seven interceptions. He’s also lost a fumble while carrying the ball 59 times for 298 yards with six rushing touchdowns.
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick recommitted to Newton as the team’s starter after Sunday’s loss. And benching Newton probably wouldn’t be the answer at this point. Jarrett Stidham and Brian Hoyer haven’t proven to be any more capable this season.
“We just have to be better at situational football,” Newton said Sunday. “And practice on it each and every day. It’s just up to players, including myself, it’s up to me to just execute better. That’s what it comes down to.”
To make the postseason, the Patriots can only afford to lose one or two more games down the stretch, and that seems highly unlikely with the way the team currently is performing.