One week after playing their worst game of the season, the New England Patriots were able to play an even worse game: the team’s offensive struggles continued, while the defense failed to slow down a San Francisco 49ers offense that had been inconsistent heading into the contest. The end result of 33-6 in the visitors’ favor is therefore a proper reflection of New England’s disappointing day, and the team’s overall performance.
With that said, some still stood out — for better or for worse. So, without any further ado, let’s take a look at the winners and losers from this game, as always without the benefit of a film review.
Losers: QB Cam Newton & QB Jarrett Stidham
Cam Newton’s struggles against the Denver Broncos last week may have been related to rust: he had missed time after his Coronavirus diagnosis, and had participated in only one practice since early October. This week, the same excuse is no longer available. Even after a full week of preparation he looked equally as bad, if not worse. The 31-year-old completed nine of 15 pass attempts for 98 yards and three interceptions, while also gaining only 19 yards on five rushing attempt before eventually getting benched.
Newton’s replacement, second-year backup Jarrett Stidham did not fare any better. He completed passes at the same rate by going 6-for-9 for 60 yards, and also threw an interception. Stidham did gain some additional experience but the fact that he continues to turn the ball over is worrisome: he appeared in five games so far in his career as a late-game insertion into the offense and has four total picks on just 27 passing attempts on his résumé.
Losers: WR Julian Edelman, WR N’Keal Harry & WR Damiere Byrd
The debate whether or not the blame for New England’s offensive struggles falls on the quarterbacks or their weapons will continue to rage on, but the fact remains: the team needs a lot more production out of its starting receivers. On Sunday, Julian Edelman, N’Keal Harry and Damiere Byrd caught just one pass each for a combined 35 receiving yards. Edelman also was the intended target on two of the four interceptions thrown on the day.
To make matters worse, Harry left the game with a head injury at the end of the first quarter because of a head injury and did not return. While the injury is bad luck, and Edelman also does not seem 100 percent, the fact remains that the top three wideouts are not getting the job done.
Winner: WR Jakobi Meyers
Entering the game, Jakobi Meyers had played just 22 offensive snaps and was little more than an emergency option. That emergency became reality on Sunday when Harry was knocked out of the game and the Patriots had to turn to him to help fill the void. He did not make any game-changing plays or alter the contest’s momentum in any meaningful way, but the second-year man still finished as the team leader in receptions (4) and receiving yards (60). As far as emergency options go, this was a solid albeit unspectacular outing.
Loser: The run defense
New England’s run defense will get some help back when big-bodied Beau Allen eventually gets activated off injured reserve after having returned to practice last week. Against the 49ers, however, he was unavailable — and the team struggled mightily to defend the run: San Francisco had 37 carries and gained 197 yards for an average of 5.3 yards per attempt; the team also scored all four of its touchdowns on the ground. The Patriots had no answer to slowing down the 49ers’ rushing attack, which eventually contributed to a 38:23-21:37 playing time advantage in San Francisco’s favor.
Winner: CB Justin Bethel
The Patriots were in dire need of big plays all day long, and one of the few of them belongs to core special teamer Justin Bethel. The veteran was able to get around the edge on an extra point attempt to get his hands on the kick and force it onto the left upright. At that point, the game stayed 16-3 instead of 17-3, and with New England’s offense struggling the way it did every point mattered. It eventually did not make a difference, but it was one of the better moments for the team on Sunday.
Loser: LB Chase Winovich
Something is up with Chase Winovich ever since the Patriots’ bye week. After seeing his lowest playing time share of the season last week against Denver, he also played only a minimal role versus San Francisco — quite the change for a player who was New England’s best pass rusher through four games and led the team with two-and-a-half sacks. Also not helping his cause is the fact that he registered an unnecessary penalty on the Patriots’ first interception of the game; one that led to some words from head coach Bill Belichick on the sideline. Winovich may not be in the so-called doghouse, but his situation is rather odd.
Loser: RB James White
One week after touching the football 12 times for 73 yards, James White’s output looked a lot different: against the 49ers, he finished with just one catch for three yards. For one reason or another, the Patriots were unable to get one of their most dynamic offensive skill position players involved — despite the quarterback-receiver group not putting up the desired results and the downfield passing game struggling as a result. San Francisco’s defense played a role in this as well, though, as did offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. Still, White’s outing was disappointing.