SOCIAL DISTANCING AT HOME — The Denver Broncos never crossed the Patriot goal line. Cam Newton scored the game’s only touchdown. Drew Lock threw two fourth quarter interceptions.
Easy Patriot win, right?
Not on your six Brandon McManus field goals. Those 18 points were enough for Denver to claim an 18-12 win on Sunday at Gillette Stadium. It was Denver’s first win in Foxborough since 2006, and the Patriots fell below .500 in October or later for the first time since 2002. In a game the Patriots were supposed to win easily, the Patriots instead looked like a team beaten not by the Broncos, but instead by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Patriots currently list eight players on the COVID-19 list. This game was supposed to have been played two weeks ago and was delayed three times. Injuries have hit the Patriots hard, especially on the offensive line…
My editors are telling me to shut the bleep up and quit making excuses. Everyone in and around Nashville, Tennessee and Buffalo, New York are laughing at me. The good people of Denver are asking me if I would like some cheese with my whine.
Which is fine. I’ll take the rap. Just so that none of you out there start complaining about what is going on with mankind in general right now. Everyone is dealing with it. No excuses, and that includes this pandemic as well as injuries.
That said, the Patriots were woefully underprepared to play the Broncos on Sunday, thanks to a ton of cancelled practices, Zoom meetings and no real sense of chemistry or what to do out there. Give Denver credit for playing well for most of the game, blitzing Newton into oblivion and inducing three Patriot turnovers. Lock ran a good offense for the most part, the fourth quarter notwithstanding, and Philip Lindsay helped out greatly with 101 rushing yards on 22 carries.
If you can come out with any positives for the Patriots, the Red Zone defense was terrific. The Broncos scored zero touchdowns in the game, and McManus connected on all six of his field goal attempts (honk if you had McManus on your fantasy football team, as he scored an unthinkable 24 points as a kicker) to give the Broncos the win. Julian Edelman had only two catches for eight receiving yards, but his passer rating was 118.8. Newton had a 51.6 passer rating, but was the fourth leading receiver on his team in terms of yards gained and was the leading rusher with 76 yards rushing.
The Patriots did make it interesting in the end, but for most of the game, the Broncos moved the ball and the Patriots did not. Denver shut down the Patriot run attack, and used a blitzing defense to put the lid on Newton. Newton was sacked four times and threw two interceptions, although on both picks the pass was tipped at the line of scrimmage. As for Denver, they did not punt the ball for the first time until the fourth quarter, as their first six offensive possessions ended in field goals.
The Patriots gave up too many big plays all game long. On the opening drive, Devin McCourty was beaten deep right by Tim Patrick for 41 yards. Albert Okwuegbunam caught two passes for 45 yards in the first drive of the second quarter, the second one on third down and 8. In the third quarter, Jason McCourty allowed a 35-yard catch to Patrick on third down and 21.
The Broncos forced three Patriot turnovers. In addition to the two interceptions thrown by Newton, Ryan Izzo caught a nice right seam pass in the third quarter for 17 yards. But after making the catch, he was stripped by Michael Ojemudia and Justin Simmons recovered. The Patriots drafted two tight ends in this year’s draft, but Dalton Keene is still injured and Devin Asiasi hasn’t seen much field action. Izzo remains a target for Newton that shouldn’t be a target bearing such importance.
The Patriots made a nice run in the end. Down 18-3 in the fourth quarter, they began at their 35 with 10:14 left in the game. A 19-yard pass to Damiere Byrd and a 38-yard scramble by Newton put the Patriots at the 8-yard line. On third down, Newton barged in from the one after video replay showed that Newton did push the ball over the goal line. With the score 18-9, Bill Belichick opted to go for two instead of kicking for one to make it a one-score game. Newton was stopped at the one on the conversion attempt and the score stayed at 18-9.
But Lock gave the Patriots a gift in the form of an interception by J.C.Jackson and got the ball back quickly. After a three-and-out, Nick Folk kicked a 38-yard field goal to finally make it a one-score game.
With 3:23 left and two timeouts and the two-minute warning, an onside kick was not needed. Then Lock and the Broncos gave the Patriots another gift, as on the first play, instead of running the ball, Lock tried to hit Patrick deep over the middle and Jonathan Jones made the pick. The Patriots took over at their 28 with 3:14 left, and both timeouts and the two-minute warning still in their possession.
Tom Brady may have forgotten which down it was last week. But he was sorely missed on this last drive. Under incessant blitzing by Denver, the Patriots had to rely on the arm of Edelman and not Newton to help out moving the ball. On the second play, a double pass from Edelman to James White went for 22 yards. Seven plays later, Edelman took a handoff on a reverse right, then threw to Newton on the right sideline which went for 16 yards. The Patriots were at the Denver 24 with plenty of time to score a touchdown. But a sack by Malik Reed on second down hurt the Patriot chances, and on fourth and ten from the 24, an intense blitz forced an errant throw to N’Keal Harry to seal it for Denver.
Lock finished 10 of 24 passing for 189 yards, two picks and a 34.9 rating. Patrick had four catches for 101 yards. Lindsay’s 101 rushing yards were lethal, given these abysmal numbers by Lock.
Newton finished 17 of 25 passing for 157 yards. White had eight catches for 65 yards.
The Patriots are now 2-3 and face another injury-riddled team, the San Francisco 49ers next week at home. Jimmy Garoppolo’s homecoming may be compromised as he is recovering from still another injury and played terribly last week against Miami at home. Garoppolo wound up being benched in favor of C.J. Beathard. The game should be interesting.
The fact that this game still came down to the last drive says a lot for the Patriots not quitting and giving up when all game long they were getting whupped. But they cannot complain about injuries or the novel Coronavirus. No one will listen or care.
Simply put, the Patriots need to coach better and play better. Ask Belichick and that’s exactly what he will say, and not much else.
Posted Under: 2020 Patriots Season