Well, that was embarrassing. The New England Patriots got completely outclassed by the Buffalo Bills on Monday Night Football. The final score may have been 38-9, and it really wasn’t even that close. There was almost nothing positive about the game, but I’m going to give this a shot anyway.
Everyone has been talking about how dominant the Patriots have been at the quarterback position since Tom Brady took over as the starter in 2001, but you really have to go back to 1992 to have a comparison even close to this season. That year, the team went 2-14 and ended up in position to add Drew Bledsoe with the first overall draft pick. They had started every year since then with either Bledsoe or Brady under center.
With the QB spot solidified, it made things a lot easier and now New England is going to need to figure out who the next guy is going to be. It certainly doesn’t look like Cam Newton is the guy of the future, but neither appears to be Jarrett Stidham.
Stidham still needs to get the start against the New York Jets next week. Yes, it’s his spot on the depth chart, but it is nonetheless no service to him to insert him into games when the other team knows the Patriots will be passing and can pin its ears back like the Bills and Los Angeles Rams did in two of the last three weeks. His stats on Monday — 4-for-11 for 44 yards — need to be taken with a grain of salt.
I know it was one play, but Stidham’s 22-yard pass to Jakobi Meyers is exactly what you want to see a young quarterback do. He checked at the line, changed the play and possibly the protection, and then delivered a strike to an open receiver that allowed him to run after the catch. It’s one play, but let’s see if he can do that more consistently. At this point, there is no downside to playing Stidham and preparing him as the starter for the regular season finale.
There are a lot of questions that need to be answered this offseason, after all, and quarterback is the most important. The Patriots need all the information they can possibly get to make the best decision.
Running back strength
Running back is clearly a position of strength for the Patriots offense. While Damien Harris has run the ball incredibly well this season before an ankle injury knocked him out of back-to-back games, Sony Michel had another impressive game against the Bills: the former first-round draft pick finished with 69 yards on 10 carries.
Undrafted rookie J.J. Taylor also showed some real burst through the line later in the game. Combine that with what New England obviously has in James White, and the running back remains a bright spot — not something you can say about many positions on the team right now.
The Patriots defense played pretty good at the beginning of the game, but were done in by mental errors like the offsides by Adam Butler that negated an interception by J.C. Jackson. Or an offsides by Chase Winovich, which gave the Bills a 2nd-and-5 instead of a 2nd-and-10. And, most notably, the fake punt by the Bills. You simply cannot leave two gunners alone like that and expect to make a play — this isn’t Madden.
The Patriots have a bunch of guys out right now, and they don’t have as much talent on the roster as they are used to, but they usually don’t make egregious mental mistakes. This game was altered significantly because of them, and that normally just doesn’t happen in New England. But, what’s normal in 2020?
The Patriots are thin everywhere, but linebacker has been hit especially hard, with Dont’a Hightower opting out and Brandon Copeland being lost for the season due to injury. Ja’Whaun Bentley also missed Monday’s game, and we then saw Josh Uche, Anfernee Jennings, and Terez Hall all go down with injuries. It appears that Uche’s was the most serious, but New England cannot afford to lose any more players on defense either way.
It might look bad now, but the Patriots still have the coach. They have some serious work to do over the offseason, but they have the cap space, and, hopefully, the draft picks to bring in some impact players. If the guys they took this year, and the other young guys on the roster, can continue to improve, they have a chance to at least field a competitive team next year. Also: These Bills are very good (but let’s not crown them a dynasty just yet).
Whatever happens, New England is in uncharted waters. Let’s give Bill Belichick a year or two to try to right the ship here before we start our mutiny, please.
My six seconds of fame
There was one positive to come out of Monday night’s game, and that was my six seconds of fame on the ESPN fan mosaic. Right smack dab in the middle. Unfortunately, they didn’t do it after the Patriots’ two scores, and they ended up doing it late in the fourth quarter instead when the game was effectively over, but, hey, national TV is national TV. If you want an autograph, just let me know, I’ll hook you up!