As second looks go, this didn’t get any less ugly after digesting it and rewatching it again Sunday evening. The Patriots played… and looked exactly like a team that had a single practice in the last two weeks.
But there are no excuses for what we saw on the field at Gillette, and the team should be glad that there weren’t fans in the stadium for that one. It was among the ugliest games in the Bill Belichick era. And against a team that isn’t very good.
Denver isn’t a good football team. Prior to their steamrolling of the Patriots on Sunday, their only prior win was against a terrible J-E-T-S team that helped them along by committing a slew of personal foul penalties on defense in that one.
But after dominating play for more than 50 minutes, the Broncos tried to return the favor by throwing two ill-advised passes…both of which were picked off by J.C. Jackson and Jonathan Jones respectively, and the Patriots nearly pulled off an epic comeback in a game that they had no business even being within striking distance of winning.
It all starts with the offense, which was …to be kind, terrible. All of their struggles begin from the offensive line which was in total flux. The only player starting in his regular position was right tackle Jermaine Eluemunor. With Shaq Mason and now James Ferentz out the Patriots had to once again move around their offensive line, sliding Joe Thuney to center, Michael Onwenu to right guard, Isaiah Wynn moved inside to left guard, with rookie Justin Herron at left tackle.
In the second half, it looked like they tried to adjust by moving Wynn back to LT, with Onwenu to LG and Herron to RT but it didn’t make any difference. After two non-productive runs, Newton was sacked on third down on their first possession.
As a result, and with plenty of time to prepare, Denver’s game plan was simple, they were going to stack the box on early downs to take away the running game and blitz the hell out of the patchwork offensive line on passing downs where the Patriots with their dearth of team speed were not going to threaten them deep. Bradley Chubb was huge in this game and was virtually unblockable all day long.
It was a sound game plan by Vic Fangio and worked to perfection. Plus the fact that Newton, after missing the KC game was off-target and made some questionable decisions. He was left standing there holding the ball an awfully long time with no one getting open and was sacked. He finished 17-25 for 157 yards with no TDs and 2 INTs.
The Patriots running backs couldn’t get untracked and had just 15 carries for 41 yards. Newton chipped in with 76 yards on the ground, including 38 on one run in the second half. Because the offense was ground to a halt, Josh McDaniels was forced to empty out the bag of tricks that had not one but two passes from Julian Edelman. He completed both for 38 yards but it was indicative of how things were going offensively all day.
The passing game was atrocious. Julian Edelman had just two catches for eight yards on six targets. N’Keal Harry was targeted just twice and was shut out. One pass was tipped at the line and the other, the Patriots final offensive play was well wide of the mark but it seemed like Harry should have run an out route there, instead of trying to break inside…maybe, maybe not. But between him and Edelman, that kind of non-production is not going to cut it.
James White, (no surprise) was the most effective pass receiver for the Patriots turning in a typical White type of game with eight catches for 65 yards on nine targets. Damien Harris had one catch for 14 yards on a check-down where two WRs ran from opposite sides to the same place in the middle of the field, pulling all of the coverage with them. These are the kind of mental mistakes that shouldn’t be happening in Week 5. Given the continuing lack of a viable tight end target in the passing game, it is a show stopper.
Defensively, the red-zone defense kept this game from being the blowout that it could have easily become. They held Denver out of the end zone and to six field goals by Brandon McManus who has a heckuva range. A common knock on McManus is that he kicks in the rarified air of Denver, that while true, isn’t a barometer on how long his range is. His 55-yarder in Gillette was never in doubt.
But the defensive side was a mixed bag. While in the red zone they were excellent, Denver seemed to move easily between the 20s. They had one drive that went for 15 plays and ate up 9:07 of the clock. Whenever they dropped back in a zone, Drew Lock was finding guys open and Tim Patrick was a big recipient here, catching 4 passes for 101 yards. But overall Lock was just 10-24 for 189 yards with 0TDs and 2 INTs.
Phillip Lindsay had a nice game of running the ball rushing 23 times for 101 yards. Part of that reason was how short-handed the defensive line is, NT Beau Allen is MIA on IR, Byron Cowart is in the COVID-19 protocol, after starting the first four games. Then the team lost Adam Butler with an elbow injury early in this one. However, nearly every team is having to deal with injuries, the time for excuses is past.
Ja’Whaun Bentley had a solid game in run support and it was nice to see Anfernee Jennings get some snaps as well at linebacker.
This will all be something to watch for next Sunday when the 49ers and Patriots meet. The Niners have a very solid defense and a very good running game. But for now, this team needs to get on the practice field and get their act together. This has been two stinkeroos in a row. Check out our report card tomorrow by position.
Posted Under: Patriots News
Tags: Bill Belichick Cam Newton Denver Broncos Drew Lock James White Julian Edelman New England Patriots NFL Patriots Phillip Lindsay