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The Lane Breakdown: A bittersweet end to a disappointing Patriots season

Related: Patriots vs Jets recap: New England ends 2020 season with a 28-14 win

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New York Jets v New England Patriots Photo by Billie Weiss/Getty Images

The New England Patriots crushed the New York Jets on Sunday, and the only question I was left with was: Where was that all season?

I know it was the Jets, but that’s the type of offense I wanted to see all year long. Cam Newton had some explosive runs, but also threw the ball a ton, and had his first game with multiple passing touchdowns all year. In fact, going into Sunday, he had only five scoring passes all season. If the Patriots had played like this all year, they might have been fighting for a playoff spot, instead of worrying about where their first round pick would be.

Alas, it was not meant to be.

Young guys

The first focus is on the young guys. Chase Winovich had a very disruptive day for the Patriots, registering two sacks, and being in the backfield on a consistent basis while also tipping a pass at the line.

Devin Asiasi hauled in his first NFL catch, a sliding first down, but later dropped another slightly off-target throw. However, the highlight of his day came when he hauled in his first touchdown of the season (and his career) on a semi-contested catch over his shoulder. All in all, not a terrible game from the kid, and it was good to see him get some different looks all day.

Myles Bryant, on the other hand, struggled and had three miscues on a single Jets scoring drive. The Patriots seemed more confident employing him at safety for most of the game, but it appears that the position may not be for him just yet. He is definitely a promising young player, though, despite ending the 2020 season on a low note.

Different offense

As I mentioned, Cam Newton threw the ball a good amount, and was effective doing so. He passed for 242 yards while going 21-of-30 and being involved on all four touchdowns. That’s a marked improvement over what we have seen from him most of the year. He also ran the ball 11 times for 79 yards, and caught a touchdown thrown by wide receiver Jakobi Meyers. If this was indeed Newton’s final game as a Patriot, he made it a good one.

Sony Michel also had a good day. The former first-round draft pick ran hard for a third straight game, but it was his use as a receiver that really stuck out. He ended with three catches for 60 yards, including his first career receiving touchdown.

James White was also included in the passing game more than usual, catching his first touchdown of the season, and pulling in four total catches — something he only accomplished five times this year. Funny how the offense seems to work better when you throw to the backs.

Who is going to play quarterback next year is still very much in question, but Patriots fans have to hope the offense looks less like it has the majority of the year, and more like it did on Sunday against the Jets.

Eye on the offseason

For the first time since 2008, the Patriots won’t be in the playoffs. That is hard to deal with for most fans, but now the focus shifts to the offseason. You know the drill, no days off.

The first and biggest question that needs to be answered is who will be playing quarterback next season. There have been rumblings that Cam Newton won’t be back, and that seems to make sense based on his performance throughout the entire 2020 season. There are a few guys of interest who might be available, and New England could take a stab at one in the draft as well.

The team also needs to add at least one playmaker at wide receiver, and some help in the front seven.

Things start with their free agents, though, which are numerous. Players like David Andrews, James White, Joe Thuney, Adam Butler, Lawrence Guy, and restricted free agent J.C. Jackson make this an incredibly important offseason when it comes to resigning or replacing your foundational talent. Luckily, the Patriots have plenty of salary cap space to make sure that they keep the players they want, and hopefully add more into the mix as well.

Thank you

Finally, I wanted to say a quick thanks to all of you who continued to read this and my other pieces this year. It was certainly not the easiest year to be a Patriots fan, but you stuck with us, and that means a lot.

I’m already excited about the offseason, and we’ll have a ton of great content coming your way soon!

Pat is a host of The Patriot Nation Podcast. Interact with him on Twitter @plane_pats.