In a season that brought a losing record for the first time in 20 years and saw the New England Patriots miss the playoffs for the first time since 2008, we were able to get a closer look into the life of a normal football fan. We saw our first glimpse of the post-Tom Brady era and learned more about this team and ourselves than ever before, all in the midst of a global pandemic.
It’s been a surreal season but it can be summed up nicely by this Devin McCourty quote following Sunday’s season finale:
“[Matthew Slater] said something great even after the game: for us to take time to think about 2020 and what it’s taught us. What we’ve gone through, the good, the bad, and most importantly; to grow from it and not just say, ‘Man, I’m happy it’s over. Let’s move forward,’ but to actually take the lessons you’ve learned.”
The team’s 2020 campaign was capped off with a 28-14 victory over the New York Jets in one of its most impressive and encouraging performances of the season. There were some nice performances as well as a few duds, let’s check them out one final time.
Winner: RB Sony Michel
Sony Michel played like a first-round running back over the final three weeks of the season. He averaged 6.3 yards per carry on 36 carries and added four catches for 68 yards and a touchdown in his starts after Damien Harris went down with his ankle injury. Being able to pair the two up next season isn’t just a positive for Michel — who seems to work best in spurts — but the Patriots, who will be able to keep a fresh rotation at the position in 2021.
Loser: CB Myles Bryant
Sometimes it only takes one drive.
The Jets’ first touchdown drive showed the negatives of playing an undrafted free agent rookie so much. Three straight miscues by Bryant allowed New York to move 48 yards and into the end zone for a touchdown.
First was a missed tackle behind the line of scrimmage, leading to a 15-yard gain and a first down. Then a rookie mistake, waiting for a could-be interception while a receiver runs under the ball and picks up 12 yards. Finally, he was late to help Devin McCourty who was playing outside leverage on a post, which led to a 21-yard touchdown. He added a 15-yard penalty on the touchdown for a hit on a defenseless receiver. Not an ideal stretch.
Winner: EDGE Chase Winovich
Chase Winovich once again proved to be a disruptor on Sunday with one of his best performances as a pro. Winovich finished the game with a pair of sacks, two tackles for loss, five quarterback pressures and a pass deflection. With the Patriots’ depth issues at linebacker, Winovich was able to have a more consistent role, and possibly cemented his spot as an every-down player moving forward.
Winner: CB J.C. Jackson
Jackson bounced back from a bad performance last week with a solid outing on Sunday.
The former undrafted rookie made himself a little bit more money on Sunday with his ninth interception of the season. That is the second most for any Patriot in a single season, tied with Ty Law’s nine in 1998. They trail only Asante Samuel’s 10-pick campaign in 2006.
Jackson also continued to be a quote machine, providing a couple of gem’s postgame:
JC Jackson, you set a record for the most takeaways (11) in a season under Bill Belichick. What does that mean to you?— Chris Mason (@ByChrisMason) January 3, 2021
"Don't mean shit."
"How can you say the game doesn't matter? ...It mattered to me, and my teammates." - J.C. Jackson was asked about today's game being meaningless pic.twitter.com/csti1C6YTF— NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSBoston) January 3, 2021
Winner: TE Devin Asiasi
New England fans can now take a collective sigh of relief after seeing one of its rookie tight ends turn in at least one solid performance on the season. Devin Asiasi was able to do so, recording not only his first career catch, but his first career touchdown in the same game. He had a drop and was far from perfect, but there is less than zero room to nitpick any sort of positive performance from a Patriots tight end.
Loser: CB Joejuan Williams
This is your big loser from Sunday. Despite rarely seeing the field throughout the season, Williams had one of the worst effort plays I’ve seen in a long time. In the third quarter, he watched as Breshad Perriman coasted by him for a gain of 51 yards, no hustle whatsoever.
For a guy who has shown flashes of brilliance at the point of attack, that may be an insight into why he can’t find consistent playing time. If it’s a matter of his talent, this kind of play certainly isn’t going to help him see the field, it might help him find his way out of New England.
Winner: WR Jakobi Meyers
Not only was Jakobi Meyers a winner on Sunday, he was the big winner for the Patriots in 2020. The only consistent presence at wide receiver, Meyers showed that he was a legit NFL option and earned his way to an increased role in 2021.
On Sunday he balled out, recording six catches for 68 yards, throwing a 19-yard touchdown to Cam Newton and even adding a nice 7-yard rush. His touchdown throw provided the spark that helped the Patriots pull away in the second half.
Winner: QB Cam Newton
Cam Newton saved his best performance for (possibly) last, throwing for 242 yards and three touchdowns on 67 percent passing, rushing for 79 more yards, and hauling in his first career touchdown catch.
Despite all of the criticism throughout the season, Newton stayed the course. He was Cam Newton from his first 10-yard run against Miami to his final kneel-down against the Jets. No matter what happens in the future, it can’t be argued that he was a popular figure in the locker room and did things that this fan base hadn’t ever seen before.