The votes are in, and the Patriots are down big-time.
Last week’s loss was tough in a lot of ways. Watching it live, obviously, was the biggie. But it hurt to see the Patriots almost pull it off, even with top players Gilmore, Harry and Edleman out of action. The team was fighting. They were trying. That’s really what I want to see the most each week. Mistakes and bad plays happen, but it’s their overall efforts that keep me coming back. Keep me caring about them and tuning in week after week. Heck, it’s the team’s 60-minute mantra that won them so many championships.
A win in Buffalo would have put a patch on some of their problems, even if only temporarily. The Pats would be 3-4, the Bills 5-3 and the gap in the division would have at least seemed surmountable. It would have been a pressure-reliever, and a reward for the work the players put in to improve after a sloppy Week 7.
Instead they have a a four-game losing streak and a fork in their season.
I’m usually an optimist and while the Pats downward trend isn’t a positive, I can certainly, and graciously, grant them a rebuild year. Moving on from Tom Brady was already going to make the season interesting, but add in the rest of the obstacles and it finally looks too much to overcome.
Monday night they meet the winless Jets in New Jersey. The Jets are too good at the tanking thing for the Pats to compete in that arena, so here’s hoping they get their next win to stop the slide.
Around the AFC East:
Cleveland Browns (5-3) - Bye
Cincinnati Bengals (2-5-1) - Bye
18th - Staff (AP Pro32).
19th - Jenny Vrentas (SI): This was a better performance by Cam Newton, until the devastating fumble with the Patriots in-range of a game-tying field goal in the game’s final minute. The Patriots still had five division games left entering this past weekend, so we weren’t ready to write them off yet, but this loss puts them in a hole that might be too large to emerge from, especially with the flawed roster that frustrated even Tom Brady last season. [LW: 14]
20th - NFL Nation (ESPN): Reason for optimism: G Mike Onwenu. The 6-foot-3, 350-pound Onwenu has started at three different positions on the offensive line, in addition to playing jumbo tight end, and accounted well for himself. He looks like a find after entering last week’s action ranked sixth in the NFL in ESPN’s pass block win rate for guards. There’s just something about the Patriots and sixth-round picks from Michigan that seems to be a fit. [LW: 18]
21st - Frank Schwab (Yahoo! Sports): It’s weird to see that record next to the Patriots. Before this year, the Patriots had lost five games in a season just once since 2009. It felt like we saw the Patriots’ best effort in a hard-fought game to the Bills on Sunday, and they still lost. Bill Belichick hasn’t had the challenge of keeping a losing team focused for a long, long time. [LW: 18]
22nd - Peter Botte (NY Post). [LW: 21]
22nd - Dan Hanzus (NFL.com): Sunday felt significant in the history of the AFC East. The Patriots have dominated the division in a way the league has never seen — 11 straight division titles and 17 in 19 years — but that all looks to be in the past now. Cam Newton’s red-zone fumble in the final minute ensured an agonizing loss on Sunday against the Bills, who beat the Pats in Orchard Park for the first time in nine years. The Patriots have lost four straight, and roster deficiencies, injuries and opt-outs have made this team look mediocre in a way we haven’t seen in literally decades. Would Tom Brady have been able to make the difference with this roster? It’s a shame decision-makers in New England didn’t have the good sense to give him the shot. [LW: 18]
23rd - Mike Florio (ProFootballTalk): Bill Belichick doesn’t make excuses; he makes bad decisions to call for an onside kick. [LW: 17]
23rd - Mark Schofield (TouchdownWire): Back when he got his start with ESPN, noted Boston sports fan Bill Simmons helped create the scale of losses for fans. One of the entrants on this scale was the “gut punch” game, a loss that would just haunt you as a fan and could potentially alter the course of a franchise.
Sunday’s game between the New England Patriots and the Buffalo Bills had the makings of such a loss for either fan base. From Buffalo’s perspective, this was the kind of game that the Bills and their fans have contemplated for nearly two decades. A chance to deliver a likely deathblow to the Patriots’ season. ... Where do the Patriots go from here? That will be the question that dominates the Boston airwaves for the next few days as the trade deadline approaches. ... [LW: 21]
23rd - Consensus (Bleacher Report): It’s been well over a decade since the New England Patriots missed the playoffs. But barring a miracle, the Pats aren’t going to be in the postseason tournament for the first time since 2008. The Patriots hung with the Buffalo Bills for most of the game Sunday, driving into field-goal range late for a chance to tie the game. But in a play that served as a metaphor for New England’s 2020 season, quarterback Cam Newton fumbled away a chance to tie the game.
Newton took responsibility for the gaffe that sent New England to a fourth consecutive defeat.
... It’s jarring to see a team long defined by executing plays at a high level self-destruct week after week. It’s not just Newton either. Offensive execution has been off. There have been more defensive lapses in the last four games than seemingly the past four years.
These Patriots just aren’t very good, and their struggles aren’t going to magically reverse themselves. [LW: 20]
23rd - Pete Prisco (CBS Sports): They’ve lost four straight games, which is hard to believe for this group. Is the playoff run over? [LW: 20]
24th - Danny Kelly (The Ringer): There’s always next year. The Patriots find themselves in unfamiliar territory. For the first time in what feels like forever, discussions about the end of the two-decades-long Patriots dynasty no longer feel overwrought or premature. The combination of a lack of effective cap space, COVID-19 opt-outs, a general deficiency in roster depth, and in-season injuries has rendered New England an afterthought team in not just in the AFC at large, but even in their own division. At 2-5, the Patriots find themselves losers of four consecutive games, 3.5 games behind the AFC East–leading Bills, and two games behind the Dolphins. Bill Belichick seems to be publicly coming to grips with the reality that the Patriots are a rebuilding team. [LW: 21]
25th - Vinnie Iyer (Sporting News): The Patriots fumbled away their chance to get back into the AFC playoff race. Cam Newton played better, but still made the critical costly mistake. Bill Belichick really can’t magically solve these problems after four straight losses. [LW: 23]
25th - Nate Davis (USA Today): No team has fewer passing TDs than New England’s three – and only one of those has gone to a wideout, also a league low. [LW: 21]
25th - Justin Leger (NBC Sports Boston): The Patriots had a real shot at a bounce-back victory over the Bills on Sunday, but Cam Newton fumbled it away with 30 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. Now, New England has four straight losses with the Nov. 3 trade deadline looming. It’ll be interesting to see the moves Bill Belichick makes — if any — with this team likely turning the page to 2021. On the bright side for the Patriots, they’ll draw the 0-8 Jets on Monday Night Football next week. If that turns out to be their fifth straight loss, well... yeah, we aren’t even going to go there. [LW: 17]
27th - Mark Maske (Washington Post): The fumble lost by Cam Newton kept the Patriots from remaining relevant in the AFC East race. Things have unraveled quickly after Newton spent the very early portions of the season looking like a capable replacement for Tom Brady with the potential to keep the Patriots in contention this season. [LW: 23]
AVG. RANK: 22.7 [last week: 19.3]