What do you say about a game like that? Well, there’s not much to say, to be honest.
The New England Patriots were completely dominated by the San Francisco 49ers on both sides of the football. They were significantly outplayed, and they were significantly outcoached. It was the worst home loss of the Bill Belichick’s 20-plus-year tenure as the team’s head coach, and simply one of the worst games I have ever seen the Patriots play. There was nothing positive to take away, other than Jakobi Meyers making a few sideline catches.
No one was great, no one made any solid plays, everyone sucked. So, let’s take that game, throw it in the trash, and talk about where the Patriots go from here.
New England is now two games under .500, and three-and-a-half games back in the division. Their season hangs in the balance as they go to Buffalo next week, so this is going to be a massively important week. The Patriots simply do not lose back-to-back games, never mind three straight. Losing next weekend would make it four in a row for the reigning AFC East champions.
They haven’t lost four straight since 2000, when they had two separate four-game losing streaks. Unfortunately, I don’t know how anyone could possibly be confident about their chances next Sunday. The Bills have sputtered a bit, and only managed 6 field goals against the awful New York Jets this week, but they are still a very good team, and the Patriots are going to have their hands full.
Some of the game playing decisions have been curious for the Patriots. Chase Winovich, who has been a dominant force for them for the first four games of the season, and also is an extremely athletic player, saw limited snaps for the second consecutive game. It seems like he could have helped stop the 49ers from continuously attacking the edge but for some reason was not given a consistent chance to do that.
I was also disappointed to see Devin Asiasi get scratched. He’s been open pretty consistently, and generally played well despite not registering any statistics, but Dalton Keene still got the nod over him. Maybe Bill Belichick was simply getting different guys in, and the aforementioned Meyers may have been the deciding factor in that, but I’m hoping the Patriots give both kids a shot at some point.
As for the quarterback position, it’s simple: you continue to roll with Cam Newton... for now. If the season starts to get away from you, then I think it’s in the best interest of the team to make Jarrett Stidham the starter at one point. Not because he’s the better player, but because he has a potential future with the team. If things continue the way they have recently been going for the Patriots, they will need to start thinking about next year, and maybe the year after as well.
That means figuring out whether Stidham can play, or whether you need to find someone that can. Newton looked great in Seattle, and is still an effective runner, but he hasn’t been good enough as a passer in four of the five games in which he’s played. If his play continues on this trajectory, he probably won’t be back next year, and so, you need to figure out who is going to be the future at quarterback.
Stidham hasn’t looked promising when thrown into the fire, but he just got tossed in without any game-planning or real first-team practice reps. Give him a few starts, and see what you have. Again, the Patriots are not there yet, as Belichick confirmed on Sunday, but the decision may not be that far away.
Bill Belichick the GM
One final thing that has been really bothering me is the outcry against Bill Belichick. The man is the greatest coach, and general manager, in NFL history. Him seemingly missing on wide receivers the last two years has really hurt, but he also had a ton of key players opt out this season. He did make the decision to move on from Tom Brady, but that relationship was ending, and, no matter how much fans wanted it to continue, it simply couldn’t last forever.
I’m not sure why this team seems to be so lost, and playing so poorly, but let’s not all assume that Belichick has lost it when the team struggles for a year. There was a clear drop-off after losing a ton of key players last season, and they were too close to the cap to really replace everybody they had to watch leave this offseason.
Let’s also remember that he is still the architect behind the greatest dynasty in professional sports, and he’s not done yet. Even if this ends up being a lost season, I still have faith that he can build a better team next year when the resources are far more favorable.
Pat is a host of The Patriot Nation Podcast
Interact with him on Twitter @plane_pats