Patriots-Texans Takeaways: Examining Cam Newton’s Uneven Performance

The Patriots had one glaring flaw in their loss to the Texans

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The New England Patriots are winning and losing by the smallest of margins this season, which ultimately should tell you they’re not a talented enough team.

The Patriots actually passed and ran the ball pretty well Sunday in their 27-20 loss to the Texans, and they halted Houston’s rushing attack. But none of that made up for their poor pass defense and bizarre offensive play-calling, and the Patriots couldn’t complete their fourth-quarterback comeback attempt late in the game.

Here are our top takeaways from the Week 11 loss:

Advanced stats via PFF.

PASSING OFFENSE
Based purely on accuracy, Patriots quarterback Cam Newton had a fairly strong outing Sunday afternoon. Newton went 26-of-40 for 365 yards with a touchdown. He was actually much more accurate on longer passes than he was throwing short or behind the line of scrimmage.

Adjusted completion percentage
Of Newton’s 14 incompletions, five passes were batted, two came when he was hit while throwing, one was dropped and one was thrown away, giving him an 84.4 percent adjusted accuracy rate.

— Here are Newton’s incompletions charted:

1. Throwaway
2. Under pressure, batted
3. Quick curl, pass breakup, almost picked off
4. Under pressure, thrown high
5. Batted
6. Under pressure, hit while throwing, low
7. Batted
8. Under pressure, low
9. Out in front
10. Low
11. Under pressure, batted
12. Drop
13. Batted
14. Under pressure, hit while throwing

— One quick takeaway is that Newton’s accuracy seems to suffer when he takes something off of the pass.

— All of Newton’s inaccurate passes were short. He was showing a tendency to ground passing attempts to his intended targets near the line of scrimmage. He didn’t have those same issues while throwing deeper down the field.

— Texans defensive end J.J. Watt batted four of those five passes. Carlos Watkins also had a batted pass. Newton is now tied with Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger with 11 passes batted on the season. Newton leads qualified NFL QBs with a 4.4 percent batted-pass rate. He has to figure out how to better avoid those.

— Newton was 2-of-2 for 92 yards with a touchdown on deep passes, though that did include a completed, but short, Hail Mary attempt. His 42-yard touchdown pass to Damiere Byrd might have been his best throw of the season. Newton threw some other darts to Byrd down the sideline.

— Newton was also 6-of-6 for 115 yards on aimed intermediate passes. He was 18-of-24 for 158 yards on aimed short passes. If the Patriots are going to pass the ball, then they should let Newton let it fly.

— Wide receiver N’Keal Harry had the Patriots’ only dropped pass.

— Byrd, who caught six passes on six targets for 132 yards, finished Week 11 ranked sixth among qualified wide receivers in yards per route run.

— The Patriots had no problem gaining separation, via Next Gen Stats. There was — maybe — one incompletion as a result of a lack of separation: a throwaway in the red zone.

Pass blocking
LT Isaiah Wynn: sack, hurry
LG Joe Thuney: sack
RG Shaq Mason: hurry
RB Damien Harrs: hurry
LT Jermaine Eluemunor: hurry
RB James White: hurry

— Right tackle Mike Onwenu, center David Andrews, tight end Ryan Izzo, fullback Jakob Johnson and running back Rex Burkhead were perfect in pass protection.

— Burkhead left the game early in the third quarter with a knee injury.

— Wynn left the game late with an injury. The extent of Wynn’s ailment isn’t known. If he can’t play Sunday, the Patriots might have to activate rookie Justin Herron off of injured reserve to start at left tackle.

RUSHING OFFENSE
The Texans came into Week 11 having one of the NFL’s worst run defenses. The Patriots only registered 24 total carries in Sunday’s game, however. Head-scratching.

Elusiveness
Harris: 2.64 yards after contact per attempt, four avoided tackles
White: 3 yards after contact per attempt, two avoided tackles
Burkhead: 1.75 yards after contact per attempt, one avoided tackle
Byrd: 4 yards after contact per attempt, no avoided tackles
Newton: 0 yards after contact per attempt, no avoided tackles

— Harris was running well, especially early in the game. The Patriots, for whatever reason, went away from him as the game unfolded.

— Burkhead’s injury should lead to Sony Michel’s activation next week. White and Harris also should see more playing time.

PASS DEFENSE
The Texans had no problem moving the ball through the air. Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson played an amazing game, and the Patriots had serious issues bring down ball-carriers after the catch.

Pass coverage
CB Jonathan Jones: nine catches on 11 targets, 85 yards, TD
CB JC Jackson: 3-6, 66 yards
SS Kyle Dugger: 4-5, 49 yards
CB Joejuan Williams: 1-1, 24 yards
CB Jason McCourty: 1-2, 22 yards
SS Terrence Brooks: 1-1, 21 yards
SS Adrian Phillips: 1-2, 20 yards
LB Ja’Whaun Bentley: 3-3, 17 yards
CB Stephon Gilmore: 2-2, 17 yards
LB Josh Uche: 1-1, 14 yards
LB Anfernee Jennings: 1-1, 6 yards
FS Devin McCourty: 1-1, 3 yards, TD

Here’s how many yards after catch each player allowed:

Jones: 45 yards
Jackson: 25 yards
Phillips: 22 yards
Dugger: 20 yards
Bentley: 14 yards
Gilmore: 13 yards
Williams: 11 yards
Jason McCourty: 7 yards
Brooks: 6 yards
Jennings: 1 yard
Uche: 1 yard
Devin McCourty: 0 yards

— Gilmore looked like himself in his return from a knee injury.

— Jones let up catches to wide receivers Randall Cobb, Will Fuller, Brandin Cooks and Keke Coutee, tight end Pharaoh Brown and running back Duke Johnson.

— Texans tight end Jordan Akins had a career day beating Jason McCourty, Jennings, Williams and Dugger for catches.

Pass rush
NT Carl Davis: four hurries
LB Chase Winovich: three hurries
DE Deatrich Wise: QB hit, hurry
DT Lawrence Guy: QB hit, hurry
DE Tashawn Bower: hurry
DT Byron Cowart: hurry
LB Josh Uche: hurry
LB Anfernee Jennings: hurry

— The Patriots were able to generate pressure against Watson but they simply couldn’t bring him down. Even one first-half sack could have changed the trajectory of Sunday’s game.

— Oddly, all of Davis’ 20 snaps came as a pass rusher. The Texans did have just 14 designed runs, however.

— Linebacker John Simon was held without a pressure. He now ranks 98th out of 113 qualified edge defenders in pass-rush productivity. Winovich ranks 14th.

RUN DEFENSE
The Texans were completely inept at running the ball, and the Patriots did a great job of stopping them. New England let up just 55 yards on 19 carries with a scrambling touchdown by Watson.

Defensive stops
Dugger: three stops
Bentley: three stops
Jones: three stops
Gilmore: three stops
Cowart: three stops
Phillips: three stops
Guy: two stops
Terez Hall: stop
Uche: stop

Missed tackles
Dugger: two missed tackles
Bentley: two missed tackles
Jones: missed tackle
Jackson: missed tackle
Guy: missed tackle

— Hall was the Patriots’ top-graded defender by PFF but played just 17 snaps.

— Dugger needs to work on his coverage and wrap-up ability, but he can lay the lumber in the box.

NESN’s New England football takeaways is presented by Valvoline Instant Oil Change.

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