Some players described the game-day experience as strange and weird, but that’s been par for the course in 2020 already so why should the NFL be any different? All I’ve learned since January is to expect the unexpected. Up ‘til now it’s been a good bet. Brady out and Stidham in? Mmkay... Now it’s Newton in at QB, Stidham inactive, and Hoyer the backup? Alright, let’s see how it looks. A lot of veteran turnover and a youth revival? Bring it on. A schedule that Aqib Talib took one expletive-filled look at and decided retirement was the better option? Sure, why not.
For 20 years the Patriots have had consistency and great success with their coach-quarterback duo. They say that all good things must come to an end. But nature abhors a vacuum. So far, the players are filling the void with a terrific spirit and motivation to prove the doubters wrong (watch that post-game locker room celebration for some feel-good proof). Even Bill Belichick looks like he has a little more pep in his step. I think he’s loving every minute of coaching a young team, embracing the challenge, and doing what he does best: building a team and winning.
Speaking of challenges, week two brings a cross-country trip to Seattle to face a really good Seahawks team in a Sunday night prime-time event. The Patriots will be underdogs, but hey, it’s 2020. Anything can happen. I’m pulling for the Pats to pull out a tough win.
Around the AFC East:
New England Patriots (1-0) at Seattle Seahawks (1-0)
6th - Peter Botte (NY Post): As you have heard, Bill Belichick and the Pats have made a quarterback change this season. Cam Newton got off to a nice start in the post-Tom Brady era, including 15 rushes for 75 yards and two touchdowns on the ground in a 21-11 win over Miami. Next: Sunday at Seattle.
7th - MMQB Staff (SI): That was a very encouraging debut for Cam Newton in New England. We’ve wondered forever what it would look like when they turned the page on the Tom Brady era, and it’s no surprise that coaching staff is capable of building a scheme around their new star’s unique skill set. I can’t get over the fact that the Patriots are fun and I’m enjoying this. How did this happen?
7th - Mark Maske (Washington Post): Cam Newton ran the ball effectively. He passed it efficiently. The Patriots used their new dual-threat QB perfectly, and Newton delivered. It’s not like anyone is forgetting Tom Brady and the six Super Bowl titles, but football life went on. And, at least for one Sunday, life without Brady was better for Bill Belichick and the Patriots than life without the Patriots was for Brady.
8th - Staff (AP Pro32).
9th - NFL Nation (ESPN): Best rookie debut: RB J.J. Taylor. Undrafted out of Arizona, Taylor had to prove that his strong training camp wasn’t a fluke and answered the call when the Patriots worked him into the flow of the game in the third quarter. In nine snaps, he finished with four carries for 28 yards, including an 11-yarder between the tackles in which he kept his pads low and displayed good ball security. He added one catch for 4 yards.
9th - Frank Schwab (Yahoo! Sports): Cam Newton had 15 rushing attempts, his most since 2015, and 14 of them were designed runs, according to Pro Football Focus. It was great to see Newton look effective in that role and for the Patriots to play to his strengths, but it’s fair to wonder if Newton can hold up all season if that’s the weekly plan.
10th - Danny Kelly (The Ringer): Contenders.
10th - Nate Davis (USA Today): Lot of worry about state of their revamped defense – which allowed 269 yards Sunday, better than the 275.9 average last year’s top-ranked crew permitted.
Cam Newton didn’t rack up a ton of style points in his Patriots debut. He threw for only 155 yards and didn’t toss a touchdown pass. But he didn’t make mistakes through the air, and he rushed for 75 yards while scoring twice.
The game was likely a microcosm for how the Patriots hope to remain competitive in the AFC East in 2020. New England gashed the Miami defense for over 200 yards on the ground, while a New England defense that lost a handful of starters in the offseason limited Miami to 269 total yards and forced three turnovers.
“The Patriots are not special on paper, but we really can’t let ourselves forget that Bill Belichick is a mad genius,” Gagnon said. “He has a plan, and a double-digit-point win over an improving opponent that usually gives them grief shows the Pats aren’t going anywhere.”
“Given all the losses the Pats suffered in the offseason, most pundits anointed the Bills the clear front-runners in the AFC East in 2020,” Davenport added. “But we should have known better than to count out Darth Hoodie. Still, we won’t know how good these Patriots really are until next week, when New England travels to Seattle to face a Seahawks team that blasted the Falcons in Week 1.”
11th - Pete Prisco (CBS Sports): Yes, it was only Miami. But the Patriots did some good things against the Dolphins - especially on defense. Cam Newton played a solid game.
12th - Dan Hanzus (NFL.com): The Patriots aren’t the Patriots of their glory years, but that doesn’t mean they won’t matter in the AFC. They improved to 51-12 at home against AFC East opponents in the Bill Belichick era (seriously) after a 21-11 win over the Dolphins in Foxborough. The craziest stat of the day? Cam Newton rushed the ball 15 times in his Pats debut; it was the highest number of carries he’s ever had in a game that didn’t go to overtime. It’s too early to say if this is how Josh McDaniels’ offense will look every week, but a Cam-led ground-and-pound attack makes a lot of sense.
12th - Tom E. Curran (NBC Sports Boston): It was all Cam, all the time on offense and defensively, the Patriots didn’t miss a beat against a team that stunned them last year in Week 17. All that defensive attrition and they played like that in a 21-11 win? And it could have been more lopsided than that. Tough one against the Seahawks coming up.
13th - Vinnie Iyer (Sporting News): The Patriots are settling on Cam Newton to replace Brady in the short term, but they have plenty of other offensive issues to iron out as they try to tap into Newton’s MVP upside. Defensively, they have lost a lot of pass rush but gained more youth and versatility for Bill Belichick. Belichick can do his best coaching job yet if he gets these particular Patriots to the playoffs.
15th - Adam London (NESN): Cam Newton looked like the Cam Newton of old in his Patriots debut. The only question is, can the first-year New England QB sustain that style of play over the course of a season?
AVG RANK: 9.5