The Patriots played out their own special version of ‘a day late and a dollar short’ Sunday night. Against a terrific Seahawks team, they were in a dogfight that simply ran out of time two yards shy of the goal line. While the words ‘moral victory’ will never cross my lips, I’ll admit I was disappointed — but not crushed by the loss. What can I say? The game was entertaining. The whole team showed mental toughness. Cam Newton is really fun to watch, and he’s exciting to have at quarterback leading the offense. Not saying that Tom Brady wasn’t, but everything seems a whole lot simpler so far.
By the end of the 2019 season, Tom Brady carried with him the heavy weight of his legacy, plus a myriad of media storylines, to everything he did and everything he said, every time he walked up to the line. It became not satisfying enough just to win, fans especially wanted Brady himself to play well - meaning passing touchdowns over rushing touchdowns, etc. If not, we’d get another week’s worth of ‘cliff’ talk, reminders of the ‘tensions’ in Foxboro, speculation on his next team, his supposed unhappiness with the receivers, and on and on. Always looking for signs and then dissecting them. Each word, body language, outside projects, Instagram ‘likes’... it was all broken down, charted and written about ad nauseam. I still love Tom Brady, and we’ll always have the championships. It was the baggage that got tiring.
This new 2020’s team feels lighter. The players are gelling, the media gives them the benefit of the doubt; nothing but positive vibes. The Patriots can even win right again and not have the sky fall when they lose. Expectations are a tad more reasonable than “Super Bowl win or bust.” We still find ourselves up on our feet cheering last-minute drives. It’s nice.
This week, the Patriots will face a 2-0 Raiders team that beat Drew Brees and the Saints in a Monday night stunner. They’ll be coming to Foxboro full of confidence despite Derek Carr’s lack of career success against Bill Belichick. The home team is favored by 6 points and - with no actual cash on the line - I’m picking the Patriots to win and cover.
Around the AFC East:
New England Patriots (1-1) vs. Las Vegas Raiders (2-0)
4th - Mike Florio (ProFootballTalk): If Cam stays healthy, they won’t lose many more than the one they lost this week.
7th - Doug Farrar (TouchdownWire): Yes, the Patriots are debited because they lost, 35-30 at Seattle, but not too much. Devin McCourty did get a pick-six out of Russell Wilson, and Cam Newton completed 30 of 44 passes for 397 yards and a touchdown, adding 47 yards and two more touchdowns on the ground. And Newton was just one yard away from winning the game, had the Seahawks not arisen at the perfect moment for a bit of Super Bowl XLIX karmic glory.
8th - Staff (AP Pro32).
9th - Mark Maske (Washington Post): The Patriots came up a yard (or two, by the end of the play) shy of getting a satisfying road win in Seattle but they were more than competitive with a top team. The signing of Cam Newton to take over for Tom Brady at QB is. looking more brilliant all the time. The Patriots are utilizing his dual-threat skills perfectly, even with the failed run from the 1-yard line on the final play agains he Seahawks, and throwing the ball very well.
9th - Nate Davis (USA Today): Sunday snapped streak of 64 consecutive regular-season games when New England had taken the field as the favorite. Hopefully you took Seattle and gave the points ... and yet scary to think what Cam’s Pats could yet become.
9th - Peter Botte (NY Post): Even with Cam Newton getting stuffed by the Seahawks at the goal line to end the Pats’ Sunday night bid, the new quarterback in town looks like he’ll be a supreme bargain for Bill Belichick at the veteran minimum base salary of $1.05 million. As long as Cam stays healthy, of course. Next: Sunday vs. Las Vegas.
9th - MMQB Staff (SI): I stand by my previous week’s take that Cam Newton is a quintessential Patriot. They were one 50-50 play call away from beating one of the best teams in football and once again have two punching bags in the division to tune up twice a year. If Bill Belichick can swing a trade for another playmaker before the deadline, watch out.
10th - Danny Kelly (The Ringer): Contenders: Of course the NFL let the Patriots sign Cam Newton. It all felt like some sort of weird inevitability, the league’s own special way of maintaining a long-standing tradition of letting Bill Belichick outsmart everyone else. Of course Newton ended up in New England on a near-veteran-minimum deal. Of course he did.
10th - Frank Schwab (Yahoo! Sports): Too often, in many things in life, we judge results and not the process of making the decision. The Patriots’ best play is Cam Newton at the goal line. He’s great in that area of the field. The Seahawks made a great play and stopped it. It happens. The call was just fine.
10th - Vinnie Iyer (Sporting News): File Kingsbury under Bill Belichick, who waited a long time to find Cam Newton to replace Tom Brady. They got Newton for almost nothing and now he’s playing like a healthy all-around MVP again. Unreal.
10th - NFL Nation (ESPN): Under-the-radar fantasy standout: QB Cam Newton. ESPN’s fantasy football experts had Newton as QB13 entering the season, which explains why he would fall on this type of list. Newton has been the best thing the Patriots’ offense has going — both throwing (45-of-63 for 552 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT) and rushing (26 carries, 122 yards, 4 TDs). There were questions entering the season about Newton’s health and how quickly he could acclimate to the Patriots’ system, yet those have been answered with authority through two games.
10th - Dan Hanzus (NFL.com): Shaking off a last-second loss on Sunday Night Football is easier when the bigger picture is so easy to see. The version of Cam Newton that the Patriots grabbed off the scrap heap in July is stunningly close to the Cam Newton who won MVP with the Panthers in 2015. At least that was the level Newton played at in Week 2, throwing for nearly 400 yards and accounting for three touchdowns in a narrow 35-30 defeat. He’s formed an instantaneous connection with Julian Edelman and even had N’Keal Harry making plays. The defense certainly has work to do — Russell Wilson did pretty much whatever he wanted for four quarters — but the pairing of Bill Belichick and Cam Newton (both men in hyper prove-’em-wrong mode) is very bad news for Patriot Haters the world over.
10th - Consensus (Bleacher Report): Cam Newton apparently isn’t washed up after all. After languishing on the open market for most of the offseason, Newton signed a prove-it deal to join the New England Patriots. And while two games is a relatively small sample size and the Patriots didn’t get the win Sunday night at Seattle, Newton has been proving it all over the field so far.
It’s hardly a shock that Newton has been effective running the ball. He tallied 47 yards and two scores on 11 totes against the Seahawks. But it a surprise to see how well he’s thrown the ball. The 2015 NFL MVP piled up 397 passing yards against the Seahawks and posted a passer rating of just under 95.
The Patriots dynasty was supposed to be dead after Tom Brady departed for Tampa in free agency. But the new-look Pats nearly beat the Seahawks in Seattle. If Newton maintains this level of play, they can absolutely get back to the postseason. And Newton can start getting a spot on his mantle ready for the Comeback Player of the Year award he’s going to win.
12th - Pete Prisco (CBS Sports): They have to do something with that defense. It’s bad right now. The pass rush is non-existent. Cam Newton is going to be forced to score a lot.
13th - Adam London (NESN): Bill Belichick likely would scoff at the idea of a moral victory, but it’s tough not to view the Patriots’ Week 2 performance as exactly that. Cam Newton and Co. were one yard away from beating one of the best teams in football in its own building.
AVG. RANK: 9.3 [last week: 9.5]