There are so many issues with the 2020 New England Patriots that it’s difficult to identify their biggest and most glaring flaws.
Quarterback Cam Newton isn’t playing well, but he also has one dependable wide receiver. N’Keal Harry and the Patriots’ rookie tight ends have been unproductive, but the Patriots are only throwing about 20 times per game in recent weeks.
On the other side of the ball, run defense is a major problem. But in the passing game, are the defensive backs struggling in coverage, or is the pass rush not getting to the quarterback fast enough? Or both?
Really, what it all comes down to is talent, and the Patriots need help at quarterback, wide receiver, tight end, defensive line, linebacker and potentially cornerback. They have plenty of cap space and will be drafting higher than usual, but it will still be difficult to fill all of those needs in one offseason.
The Patriots lost 38-9 to the Bills on Monday night in their latest disappointing performance. Here are our top takeaways from the game.
All advanced stats via PFF unless otherwise noted:
The Patriots’ passing attack was dismal, gaining just 78 yards on 9-of-21 passing. Neither Cam Newton nor Jarrett Stidham completed more than 50 percent of their passes.
Adjusted completion percentage
Cam Newton: 5-of-10 passing with one drop for a 60-percent adjusted completion rate
Jarrett Stidham: 4-of-11 passing with three throwaways for a 50-percent adjusted completion rate
— Only wide receiver Damiere Byrd was charged with a drop. Two of Newton’s passes also hit rookie tight end Devin Asiasi in the hands. One came on a high throw from Newton. The other would have been a contested catch in tight coverage. It also appeared Newton had an incomplete pass to Harry batted at the line of scrimmage, but it seems PFF didn’t see it the same way.
— We won’t know exactly what the Patriots have in Stidham until he actually gets a full week of practice as the starting quarterback before getting into a game, but he’s also rarely providing a noticeable spark. It would be mildly interesting to see him start Sunday’s game against the Jets. We’ll see if it actually happens.
— Newton was 0-for-2 (with the drop) on deep passes. Stidham was 0-for-1 on deep passing attempts.
— Wide receiver Jakobi Meyers, who had four catches for 45 yards, accounted for 57.7 percent of the Patriots’ receiving yards and 80.4 percent of New England’s net passing yards. It was the second straight week and fifth time this season that Meyers has produced over 50 percent of the Patriots’ net passing yards. Since breaking out in Week 7, he’s accounted for 37 percent of the Patriots’ receiving yards. To put that into context, the only receiver who approaches that rate on the entire season is Cardinals wideout DeAndre Hopkins, who has accounted for 35 percent of Arizona’s receiving yards.
Between Byrd’s recent issues with drops (he has four in the last three weeks and five on the season) and Harry’s general lack of production, Meyers might be the only legitimate wide receiver on this roster. He’d be best utilized as a No. 2 or 3 option, but we’re curious to see how he’d look in a more efficient passing attack.
Meyers is not Hopkins, don’t get us wrong. But his ability to keep performing in a low-volume passing attack deserves mention.
— It’s just really not working for the Patriots and their tight ends this season. Rookie Asiasi still doesn’t have a catch this season.
LT Justin Herron: sack, two hurries
C David Andrews: sack, hurry
RG Shaq Mason: two hurries
QB Jarrett Stidham: sack
TE Dalton Keene: hurry
OT Jermaine Eluemunor: hurry
C James Ferentz: hurry
RB James White: hurry
— Asiasi was responsible for chipping Dean Marlowe on a sack by the Bills safety. PFF didn’t charge the young tight end with allowing a sack, however.
— Michael Onwenu and Joe Thuney were clean in pass protection. Onwenu wound up playing right tackle and right guard after Andrews and Mason both went down with injuries.
— Eluemunor first rotated with Herron at left tackle before entering the game at right tackle as Onwenu slid to right guard.
The Patriots’ rushing attack was one of the lone bright spots of Monday night’s loss. The Patriots rushed 24 times for 145 yards at 6 yards per clip. Sony Michel ran 10 times for 69 yards, J.J. Taylor rushed six times for 38 yards and Newton rushed four times for 24 yards with a touchdown. The Patriots abandoned the run after trailing 24-9 in the second quarter.
Newton: 10 yards after contact per attempt, two avoided tackles
Taylor: 4.67 yards after contact per attempt, two avoided tackles
Michel: 4.10 yards after contact per attempt, three avoided tackles
James White: 1.75 yards after contact per attempt
— Taylor and Michel ranked sixth and ninth, respectively, among running backs with at least five carries in PFF’s elusive rating this week. Taylor ranked seventh in yards after contact per attempt, while Michel ranked 12th.
— The Patriots have a really solid young core at running back in Michel, Taylor and Damien Harris, who was out Week 16 with an ankle injury. It will be interesting to see if James White or Rex Burkhead are brought back.
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick supposedly told ESPN he wasn’t buying Josh Allen as an MVP candidate this season. The Bills QB sure looked like one, completing 75 percent of his passes for 320 yards with four touchdowns while rushing four times for 35 yards.
CB JC Jackson: five catches on eight targets for 88 yards, two touchdowns
CB Jonathan Jones: 7-8, 51 yards
CB Jason McCourty: 4-5, 43 yards, TD
FS Devin McCourty: 2-2, 36 yards
LB Terez Hall: 3-3, 29 yards
LB Chase Winovich: 1-1, 27 yards
SS Kyle Dugger: 3-3, 27 yards
LB John Simon: 1-1, 13 yards
LB Anfernee Jennings: 1-1, 10 yards
CB Joejuan Williams: 1-1, 10 yards
SS Adrian Phillips: 1-2, 6 yards
LB Josh Uche: 1-1, 4 yards, TD
SS Terrence Brooks: 0-1
— Jackson definitely struggled in coverage against Diggs, but he also probably only should have allowed one touchdown. Brooks, playing for an injured Devin McCourty, missed a tackle on one of the scores Jackson allowed. Jackson also had an interception called back because of an offsides penalty on defensive tackle Adam Butler who had two on the game.
— The Patriots lost track of Bills blocking tight end Lee Smith on a 27-yard catch and a 4-yard touchdown. PFF charged Winovich and Uche with allowing those cathces.
— The Patriots didn’t force a single incompletion — no pass breakups or interceptions.
Butler: three hurries
Winovich: three hurries
DE Deatrich Wise: hurry
DT Byron Cowart: hurry
DT Nick Thurman: hurry
— Uche played 32 total snaps with 18 in coverage, nine in run defense and just five as a pass rusher as he played more off of the line of scrimmage with Ja’Whaun Bentley out.
— The Patriots have really struggled to get after the quarterback in their recent stretch of losses against the Bills, Miami Dolphins and Los Angeles Rams. It didn’t help that the Dolphins and Rams barely threw the ball.
The Patriots weren’t quite as bad defending the run as they were in Weeks 14 and 15, but they still let up 130 yards on 31 carries with a touchdown.
Hall: three stops
Wise: two stops
Phillips: two stops
Devin McCourty: two stops
Jones: three stops, two missed tackles
Jackson: two stops, missed tackle
DE Tashawn Bower: stop
DT Akeem Spence: stop
Simon: stop, missed tackle
Dugger: missed tackle
Brooks: missed tackle
— The Patriots were missed Bentley and defensive tackle Lawrence Guy, two defensive captains, and it showed.
— Hall has filled in admirably in the middle of the Patriots’ defense, but New England needs significant upgrades at linebacker and defensive tackle. Hall took a risk and filled the wrong gap on Bills running back Zack Moss’ 5-yard touchdown plunge.
NESNâs New England football takeaways is presented by Valvoline Instant Oil Change