Welp...that’s the end of that.
In wildly unsurprising news, the New England Patriots lost to the Miami Dolphins on the road yesterday to drop them to 6-8 on the year. Not only did the loss eliminate the Patriots from playoff contention for the first time since 2008, but it also breaks a 20 year streak of consecutive winning seasons from New England, stemming all the way back to 2001. What an unbelievable run. If you want to be upset today about this team’s performance, go right ahead. But this season was more or less a wash from the jump, and so if you’re finally going to have a rebuilding year, 2020 seems as good as any.
- Yesterday was, obviously, a game the Patriots had to have. It was a must-win, season on the line game. It was the kind of game that Patriots teams of years past would dig down deep and win, making some big plays and coming up clutch in those crucial moments where momentum was hanging in the balance. At no point during yesterday’s game did I get the impression that the Pats understood the levels of urgency of this contest. They never got anything going on either side of the ball, didn’t seem fired up at any point, and didn’t look like anything other than the crappy-to-mediocre squad they’ve been all season. They didn’t deserve to win, and Miami did. Plain and simple.
- Patriots receive the opening kickoff, go three and out, punt. I just described almost every Pats game we’ve watched all year. At least this team is consistent.
- What should be glaringly obvious by now is that the Patriots more or less exhausted their entire playbook about three weeks ago. There was just nothing left in the tank, no new plays to call, no wrinkles to install. Any defensive coordinator with half a brain is just going to stack the box, trust their corners to win the one on one matchups, and put the Patriots in a passing situation. That’s what Miami did yesterday, and the Patriots only cracked the red zone once, and that was just barely.
- On the plus side Devin Asiasi almost had a catch! And Dalton Keane got a target! I’ll take it!
- Did I hear Cam Newton call out “Laqueesha” when he was calling an audible at the line? if he did, “Laqueesha” must mean “I have no idea if a blitz is coming, so here’s hoping this play works.”
- I also think I heard him audible to “Dunkin Donuts,” which is where his mind must have been on some of his throws.
- It’s very easy to knock Cam Newton for his play, both yesterday and this season overall. He has the same number of touchdown passes this season as Tommy B had in the second quarter of that 2009 game against the Titans. He can’t seem to diagnose the blitz, a fair number of his passes sail high or into the dirt, his throwing mechanics seem wonky, and he’s never really got a feel for the offense. He also came onto the team last-minute with little-to-no offseason, missed time due to coronavirus, was saddled with arguably the weakest WR corp in the league, and on multiple occasions made something out of nothing. The two aren’t mutually exclusive. He’s an average quarterback having a below average year on a below average team.
- I used to love it when the Patriots pinned an opponent deep inside the five with an amazing punt...but now that just means the defense is about to give up a 90 yard, 10 minute scoring drive.
- Which would have happened right as the first quarter expired, as Miami had driven 95 yards on 15 plays that didn’t even see a third down until the 12th play — but a Chase Winovich chasedown led to the J.C. Jackson pick which led to the Patriots running about seven crossing patterns in a row in order to set up a Nick Folk field goal. Which, to be honest, is up there for one of the best sequences of the year.
- I was going to wait a while to get into how on Tebow’s Green Earth the Patriots gave up 250 yards on the ground to a team that is middling at best in terms of rushing attack...but what the hell.
- It really all stems down to one thing: a complete, utter, and spectacular inability to set anything even remotely resembling an edge. I don’t know if Miami specifically designed plays that started towards the middle of the field and then bounced outside or if the backs just noticed the massive amounts of space along the edges, but every time a back turned a corner it was a big gain Ahmed and Breida averaged 5.3 and 7.2 yards per carry respectively on a combined 35 carries. And New England, inexplicably, didn’t counter by going bigger in their defensive packages. Perhaps the thought process was to counter with speed, but that just led to poor tackling.
- On the plus side, Stephon Gilmore went down with a non-contact knee injury. Players always bounce right back from those.
- It never ceases to amaze me how little we as fans (and I catch myself doing this as well) care about the actual wellbeing of these players who bring us so much joy each and every week. “I hope he’s OK” is always the third or fourth thing that runs through our mind, right after “I hope he can still play,” “This really hurts his trade value,” and “Maybe he’ll be back for the playoffs.”
- That said, I’m still extremely excited about what is becoming the new core of this unit. Chase Winovich’s development is trending in the right direction. Rookie Josh Uche is the speedy, instinctive linebacker with strong lateral movement that this team desperately needs. Kyle Dugger is the run-stuffing thumper that, as he grows, teams will start directing plays away from. J.C. Jackson has the makings of a #1 corner. That’s a solid player at every level of the defense, and all guys to build around.
- Given the general attitude of most Patriots fans, there are likely a lot of folks pointing to a pass that bounced off N’Keal Harry’s hands on that FG drive that he probably should have caught. And ultimately, he probably should have; it was a little high and he had to make a bit of an awkward mid-air turn, so it wasn’t some kind of gimme. But a deep-ish sideline route in single coverage where a 6’5” receiver has the chance to jump up and make a contested catch should be a staple of this playbook at this point in Harry’s career.
- And it was in Miami, so it’s not like there were any weather issues that caused the drop.
- It has been used more times than anybody can count...but there’s never a more appropriate time to use this picture than when there’s a lineman who jumps early.
- How many backbreakers have this offense committed this year? Things that happen to most teams once, maybe twice a season, seem to happen weekly for the Patriots. This week’s fumble six, the lesser known little brother of the pick-six, was called back due to a lucky break, but I know I wasn’t at all surprised when it happened.
- I can fully acknowledge the buffoonery of Charles Davis...but for some reason he doesn’t irritate me. It must be his delivery, because usually when an announcer says “what he’s going to try and do on this play is cross the goal line. That’ll result in a touchdown,” I get the redass. But when Davis says it I found myself thinking, “thanks for the insight, Charles.”
- Jakobi Meyers caught and fumbled a pass that likely would have been called an incompletion last week, a catch with forward progress stopped next week, and a 15 yard penalty for hitting a defenseless receiver the week after. Still have no idea what a catch is.
- Cam Newton throwing a deep prayer to a 5’6” fourth string running back should tell you everything you need to know about this offense.
- The 2020 Patriots MVP battle is, in my opinion, a two horse race between Nick Folk and Jake Bailey. I don’t know whether I should laugh or cry.
- It’s always easy to knock the defense for getting bulldozed on the ground or not setting the edge or allowing 27 play, 99 yard drives that take 45 minutes off the clock...but when you have an offense that struggles mightily to crack 20 points (hell, I’d be happy with 14) every single week, I think some of that vitriol is misguided.
- I think I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating: I’m in that very surreal point in my sports watching career where the guys my age are now head coaches. For most of my life they were all way older than me, but then guys my age started getting drafted. Then guys my age were dominating the NFL. Then they all started retiring. Now they’re coaching. All that’s left are guys my age getting inducted into the Hall of Fame and I’ll have run the whole gamut.
- Congratulations to both the Miami Dolphins for a well-deserved win yesterday, and to the Buffalo Bills for winning the AFC East for the first time since the Clinton Era. The Patriots won’t be joining you in the postseason this year alas, so please represent our division well.
- If you want to feel a little better about suddenly not knowing what you’re going to do on weekends this January, spend a few minutes online today checking out how much joy New England’s elimination has brought people. This team lives rent free in millions of heads. And it’s going to be pretty sweet when we’re right back in it next year.
Is it time to start Jarrett Stidham, maybe see what we have in this kid now that the playoffs are off the table? Should we stick with Cam and let him finish out the string? I’m sure there will be plenty of calm, rational takes on the matter, and I can’t wait to read all of them.
Happy Holidays, everyone.