The Patriots got jobbed all over the place in Week 4. But that’s not why they lost to Kansas City.
Cam Newton tested positive for COVID-19 on Saturday. The NFL did all it could to keep the schedule and not postpone —even at the risk of Cam’s teammates still incubating the virus, and possibly spreading it among themselves or bringing it with them to Kansas City.
The news put the Pats in a squeeze to alert the team, tweak the game plan, Monday’s 6 am team testing, a 7-hour trip from Foxborough to Arrowhead Stadium, and then playing a three-hour plus night game. A herculean task.
Roger Goodell’s noble mantra of the NFL providing a “level playing field for all 32 teams” rings ever hollow, as the Titans and Steelers got to reschedule their matchup for weeks later after a Covid outbreak in Tennessee. Not so for New England.
The in-game jobbing was less subtle. My earlier relief was unfounded that Tony Corrente had to be an improvement over last year. His crew picked up Jerome Boger’s mantle of ineptness and dropped it right on the Chief’s own 35-yard line. Not only did they cancel a clear Patrick Mahomes fumble and Patriots’ recovery, but ruled it in such a way as to prevent a challenge.
All that aside, the Patriots lost because Brian Hoyer is simply not good at football. Old reliable Julian Edelman has a bad case of the dropsies and the Patriots defensive backs have trouble catching easy interceptions. A comedy of forced and unforced errors and they still had a chance against the reigning Champs. With Cam Newton at quarterback, this team is good.
Next week they face the Denver Broncos in Foxborough, favored by 11. I pick the Pats win and cover, and recover this week’s 3-point drop in the power rankings.
Around the AFC East:
6th - Mike Florio (ProFootballTalk): Record notwithstanding, this team is built to contend.
10th - Staff (AP Pro32).
10th - Vinnie Iyer (Sporting News): The Patriots can’t be pleased about Newton being out of action for a critical game against the Chiefs. They’re staring at an early two-game deficit in the AFC East behind the red-hot Bills.
10th - Dan Hanzus (NFL.com): Right about now, Bill Belichick is thanking his lucky stars another team didn’t aggressively target Cam Newton this offseason. With Newton sidelined following a positive coronavirus test, the Patriots’ offense was unable to avoid killer mistakes in a 26-10 loss to the Chiefs on Monday night at Arrowhead. Brian Hoyer was benched after an error-filled performance and Jarrett Stidham threw two picks in relief (though Julian Edelman owes his QB an Apple Watch or something after his drop produced the game-clinching pick-six). The Pats’ defense did a fine job containing Patrick Mahomes for most of the night, but you need to play a far cleaner game to beat the defending champs.
10th - NFL Nation (ESPN): After winning the AFC East for 11 straight years, it’s notable that the Patriots don’t have the highest FPI in the division; that rightfully goes to the Bills at this time. Cam Newton’s return to health is the key to this figure being right. They might be able to get by for a couple of games without him, but Newton puts the Patriots closer to contender status.
10th - Doug Farrar (TouchdownWire): It’s hard to drop the Patriots too much in this week’s Power Rankings — they found out that Cam Newton tested positive for COVID, which led to the postponement of their game against the defending Super Bowl champion Chiefs from Sunday night to Monday afternoon. This threw their travel schedule into a tizzy, and the problems really started when they hit the field at Arrowhead Stadium. If you combined the positive attributes of backup quarterbacks Brian Hoyer and Jarrett Stidham, you could perhaps cobble together one functional backup quarterback. Hoyer was absolutely horrible before he was benched in favor of Stidham, who promptly threw a pick-six to Tyrann Mathieu. Not that it was his fault — the ball was thrown to Julian Edelman, and went right through Edelman’s hands — but if Newton is out for a spell, Bill Belichick is going to have to do something about his quarterback situation.
We would suggest calling a certain quarterback whose name rhymes with Wolin Waepernick, who would fit in a system designed for Newton, but that’s just us.
10th - Peter Botte (NY Post): With Cam Newton sidelined by a positive coronavirus test, the Pats didn’t fly to Kansas City until Monday morning. Bill Belichick’s squad hung with the mighty Chiefs for a while, but the Pats were sunk by far too many mistakes from both backup QBs, Brian Hoyer and Jarrett Stidham. Next: Sunday vs. Denver.
11th - Frank Schwab (Yahoo! Sports): On one hand, Bill Belichick did a great job keeping his team focused and putting together a defensive game plan that kept New England in the game a lot longer than expected. But starting Brian Hoyer over Jarrett Stidham looked like a mistake after Hoyer played terribly and Stidham actually made a few plays. Maybe it wouldn’t have made a difference. Either way, we saw how much Cam Newton means to New England.
11th - Mark Maske (Washington Post): Even in a season in which no one should expect competitive fairness, it was particularly demanding for the Patriots to have to travel to Kansas City on game day to face the mighty Chiefs without Cam Newton in the lineup.
11th - Danny Kelly (The Ringer): Contenders.
11th - Sean T. McGuire (NESN): The Patriots fell in Kansas City on Monday, but the defense got back to its old ways against a good offense. Of course, New England is hoping for the return of Cam Newton (reserve/COVID list) after its two backup QBs combined for three INTs.
12th - Nate Davis (USA Today): A quarterback controversy? In New England? What could be more fun ... even if for only a week? To think Brady-Manning might morph into Rypien-Stidham ... /How stupid.
12th - Consensus (Bleacher Report): Not many folks expected the New England Patriots to have a shot against the undefeated Chiefs on Monday night. New England was without quarterback Cam Newton, who tested positive for COVID-19. The Patriots didn’t even travel to Kansas City until Monday morning.
But as the game progressed Monday evening at Arrowhead, one thing became clear: The Pats really need to get Newton back as soon as possible.
Backup quarterback Brian Hoyer committed two red-zone gaffes that cost New England at least six points. Third-stringer Jarrett Stidham, who relieved Hoyer in the second half, had some moments but also threw the pick-six that salted the game away.
The Patriots played well defensively, especially in the second half. But there were mental errors, miscues and penalties galore on offense. Never mind a very un-Belichickian four turnovers.
At 2-2, the Patriots are now two games back of the surging Bills ahead of a home game with the Denver Broncos.
And while it’s certainly not time to panic, the odds of New England’s string of 11 straight AFC East titles extending in 2020 don’t look especially good.
13th - Pete Prisco (CBS Sports): They went to Kansas City and competed without Cam Newton. That’s a tribute to Bill Belichick’s coaching ability.
AVG. RANK: 10.5 [last week: 7.1]