The New England Patriots have lost four in a row for the first time in 18 years.
After a promising 2-1 start, the tides have turned. Four straight weeks of injuries, virus-related shenanigans, and ugly football looks like they’ve served as the proverbial nail in the coffin of sports’ greatest dynasty.
The past month has been rough on Patriots fans so I know you aren’t in the mood to hear about “positives” from an absolutely devastating loss, but what makes that loss so hard to handle is the fact that they had a chance.
With 1:00 left in regulation the Patriots had driven into the red zone with multiple shots at knocking off the top seed in the division. They didn’t get it done, that’s life as a -normal- NFL football team. It’s about time we recognize that’s what the Patriots are now, normal.
It’s easy to focus on the negatives, especially when they’re so apparent, but our job here is to give credit to those who contributed positively and that’s what we’re going to do. So without further ado, let’s take a look at who the unsung heroes were in the Patriots 24-21 loss to the Buffalo Bills.
Cam Newton drops it in the bucket to Damiere Byrd
This throw by Cam is bonkers. Nice play design by Boy Genius as well. Pump fake draws the safety in and gives Cam just enough space to drop the ball in over Edmunds head. pic.twitter.com/un91Wkc29c— Keagan (@KeaganStiefel) November 2, 2020
This was Cam Newton’s best pass since the dime to Julian Edelman in Seattle. Standing in the pocket and going through his progressions while throwing a perfect ball to the right side of the field is not something I would have expected to see headed into the week. I firmly believe Newton played well on Sunday, a bright spot heading into future weeks.
Michael Onwenu selling pancakes two for the price of one
Former Patriot Matt Chatham pointed this one out during the game on Monday:
Michael Onwenu’s biggest flag coming out of college was his mobility. This year, he’s shown that he has no problem getting to the second level. He’s able to give A.J. Klein a strong shove that knocks him and Tremaine Edmunds both over. He’s been one of the Patriots’ best players all season.
Nick Folk hits from 44 and 33
Would you guys yell at me if I talked about how impressive a 43 yard field goal into the wind is for a guy picked up off the street? pic.twitter.com/zNNXaF1NsX— Keagan (@KeaganStiefel) November 2, 2020
Don’t look now, but Nick Folk is 10 for his last 10. I know it’s hard to get excited about a kicker doing his job around here but since he’s gotten re-acclimated Nick Folk has been good. He has been much better than former Patriot Stephen Gostkowski (10-17) going 11 for 13 on the season. Unfortunately, they did draft a kicker in the fifth round and that’s all anyone will be able to talk about until they find their next franchise guy.
Josh Uche makes a splash on his first NFL snap
Josh Uche (#53) had a pretty damn good first NFL snap. Avoids a chip from the TE and creates easy depth on 320lb Dion Dawkins. Keeps his hand in Allen’s face while tracking him step for step, forces the incompletion. A+ stuff from the rookie. pic.twitter.com/4QOKmLpbvr— Keagan (@KeaganStiefel) November 2, 2020
Uche’s role has been somewhat of a mystery ever since camp got under way. There were reports of him transitioning to a more inside linebacker role, but he wasn’t able to crack the lineup over Ja’Whaun Bentley and Adrian Phillips before landing on injured reserve in Week 3. He returned Sunday as a situational pass rusher before taking over for an injured Bentley in the fourth quarter. I would not be surprised to see him take over the MLB role by season’s end.
BONUS: Uche’s heads up tackle
@MikeGiardi pointed this out earlier but here’s a good look at it. Bentley was late out of the locker room so Uche is subbed in pretty much mid play. You can see him run on late and help make the tackle. pic.twitter.com/wkqtJea5ZY— Keagan (@KeaganStiefel) November 2, 2020
This was a weird one. Bentley was late coming out of the locker room after the half so Uche had to run onto the field late to sub for him. He ended up helping Lawrence Guy make the play. It’s always a good thing to see a rookie with a heads up play like that — and when Bill Belichick says this about you: “Josh actually was the first one to recognize it pretty alertly and got on the field.”
RB Rex Burkhead
Damien Harris was their best back all day, but the Patriots trusted Rex Burkhead in the big spots, and he showed up for them.
Burkhead’s versatility is what allows him to see the field so much. He’s a core special teamer and the Patriots’ most complete back. Harris and Sony Michel excel in the run game, while James White is one of the best backs in the league when it comes to the passing game. Burkhead can be plugged in and excel at both, meanwhile, and brings a level of unpredictability that you don’t get with the other backs.
Burkhead finished the day with a modest stat line — six rushes for 26 yards and one reception that went for five yards — but made two exceptional plays that were overlooked in real time.
On the Patriots’ first touchdown drive, they faced a 3rd-and-10 at Buffalo’s 37-yard line and for some reason decided to run a draw. Burkhead broke three tackles and bailed the offense out, allowing the unit to score two plays later:
He also bailed out Josh McDaniels on the Patriots first TD drive with this incredible run on 3rd and 10. pic.twitter.com/Si95B93Nb0— Keagan (@KeaganStiefel) November 2, 2020
Then, in the biggest spot of the game, they ran him on a toss on another third down to set the team up in the red zone. Burkhead broke a Matt Milano tackle and did his best tightrope impersonation, chopping his feet three times with about a foot of space, forcing himself past the first down marker.
It was for not as Cam fumbled two plays later, but this Rex Burkhead first down run on 3rd and 1 may be the best 1-yard run you’ll see all year. The balancing act here is silly. pic.twitter.com/ucumXLIXVW— Keagan (@KeaganStiefel) November 2, 2020
Those two plays may have looked inconsequential at the time but they were vital in getting the Patriots to a point where they could have won the game in the fourth quarter. Rex Burkhead’s value cannot be overstated.
I promise this will be much more fun next week following the Patriots game against the New York Jets.