Despite not allowing a touchdown, it was too little too late for the New England Patriots as their comeback bid came up just short in an 18-12 loss on Sunday afternoon. From the very start, the Patriots’ offense was sloppy and couldn’t pick up any big plays through the air or on the ground. Given the events that partook in the last two weeks, you had to expect some rust on both sides of the ball but it was imperative to head into Sunday’s game and make sure Cam Newton and the offense got settled in.
With New England now at 2-3 on the season — its worst start through a five-game stretch since 2001 — and a tough stretch ahead of them the next few weeks, the team will need to figure out quickly how to be more consistent offensively.
Loser: QB Cam Newton
Newton struggled in his first game back from the Reserve/Covid-19 list, going 17-for-25 with just 157 yards passing, no touchdowns and two interceptions. He also led the team with 76 yards rushing — one coming on a big 38-yard scramble to set up New England’s lone touchdown on the day. Through their first four games of the season, we’ve seen Cam Newton completely dominate in Weeks 1 and 2 but also seen him struggle to move the chains and be accurate with the football in his last two.
Part of it was certainly a lackluster offensive line effort and limited team speed and separation on the outside while also not being on the football field for an extended period of time: he wasn’t given much help Sunday, with his offensive line being bad and the Patriots’ receivers lacking separation all game long. However, if the Patriots want to make a run this year, Cam Newton will need to be much better than he was against Denver
Winner: CB Jonathan Jones
The Patriots’ starting slot cornerback was spectacular again on Sunday, coming away with a big interception late in the fourth quarter to put New England in a position to go down the field and win the game. He also made a great play in the back of the end-zone, swatting a touchdown pass out of Tim Patrick’s hands.
Jones job is one of the toughest players on the Patriots defense, a slot corner who’s likely lined up across the opposing teams most skilled and fast guy. Fresh off slowing down All-Pro wideout Tyreek Hill, Jones has turned in multiple strong performances and been a key catalyst for the Patriots defense once again this season.
Loser: WR Julian Edelman
It’s real tough getting on Julian Edelman given his track record of being the Patriots’ only consistently reliable wide receiver in the last decade or so. However, Sunday he struggled to get separation and was a complete non-factor in the passing game which helped lead to New England’s offensive struggles. Edelman, who was held to a season low two catches for eight yards, looked every bit of 34 in Sunday’s game. Especially on third down ,where he’s been so automatic for so long, Edelman was a non-factor and even needed to use his arm to complete crucial plays.
Loser: WR N’Keal Harry
After a promising Week 2 in Seattle, N’Keal Harry has come back down to earth catching zero balls against the Broncos on just two targets. It was more of the same from Harry who is still lacking speed and quickness off the line. Newton went to Harry with the game on the line on a 4th-and-10 and it seemed like the former first-round draft pick slipped up and wasn’t able to get anywhere close to the ball.
All in all, Harry has just 18 catches for 166 yards this year and has been extremely inconsistent through the first five games this season. If the Patriots are going to be able to move the ball efficiently through the air, they will need him to be a much bigger factor than he has beenn so far this season.
Winner: S Adrian Phillips
Phillips has been a big piece for the Patriots defense so far this season filling in for Patrick Chung. A real chess piece in his first season in New England, the 2018 All-Pro special teamer chipped in with 11 total tackles on Sunday and made some key stops coming downhill to prevent Denver on a few crucial third downs. With New England lacking speed at the linebacker position, Phillips has stepped in nicely and has been a key cog in the middle of the team’s elite defense.
Loser: The offensive line
The Patriots’ offensive line has been its true strength so far this season. They’ve done a great job in the run game and protecting Cam Newton consistently. However, heading into a game without starters David Andrews and Shaq Mason as well as key depth piece James Ferentz, we knew Sunday’s game was going to be a true test for Cole Popovich and Carmen Briccilo to get his unit ready.
The Patriots lost starter Jermaine Eluemunor early on and Hjalte Froholdt struggled as his replacement. They gave Cam Newton very little time to make plays and suffered four sacks and eight additional quarterback hits. This unit will certainly get better as it continues to get healthier, but Sunday afternoon’s game looked like the unit we saw in 2019 that struggled to protect its quarterback and get push up front to complement the running game.
Loser: TE Ryan Izzo
The Patriots have gotten absolutely nothing out of the tight end position since Rob Gronkowski retired and then packed his bags for Tampa Bay. Although Izzo chipped in three catches for 38 yards — the most from a tight end this season — he had a costly fumble early on in the third quarter with the Patriots starting to string things together offensively. Izzo who’s listed as New England’s top tight end, hasn’t produced much other than as a blocker and has many Patriots fans wondering where 2020 third-round pick Devin Asiasi, who has yet to see a target this season, is.
Winner: LB Ja’Whaun Bentley
Bentley’s 2020 campaign got off to a slow start as he really struggled to cover and get pressure on the quarterback early on in his first year as a starer. However, on Sunday he was arguably the Patriots’ most disruptive player on defense racking up 11 tackles to go along with a sack. Bentley — voted a team captain by his teammates prior to the season — is New England’s most experienced off-the-ball linebacker in just his third season, so having him contribute and make plays out there is promising to see as we only hope the Patriots’ front seven can continue to get better the healthier it gets.