There's No Need to Worry About Cam Newton and the Patriots Yet
By Liam McKeone
The New England Patriots lost a very ugly game to the Drew Lock-led Denver Broncos on Sunday. The score was 18-12. The Broncos did not score a touchdown. The Patriots had three points through three quarters. It was an uncharacteristic Patriots game filled with errors in every stage.
Such a performance will lead to a Monday full of strong takes. Rex Ryan gave it to us all on ESPN when he labeled Sunday's showing a disaster (fair) and that it's time to start worrying about the situation in Foxborough (I don't know about that).
Just about every point Ryan makes about Cam Newton's play on Sunday is accurate. He was really not good. Everything Dan Orlovsky says afterwards is also true. The Patriots had practiced three times in 16 days leading up to the game, and it showed. Newton himself had two practices to get re-acclimated.
But, for whatever reason, this loss is being used as a one-game sample size to start ringing the alarm bells for Newton. And it should not be. Nobody was saying anything like this after he looked as good as ever against Seattle in Week 2. He had a bad game, but between the lack of prep time and the available talent's ability to compensate for that lack of prep time, there's no reason to worry.
It also bears mentioning that the Patriots lost their starting right tackle during the game, which forced a shuffle along the line. The unit is thin right now as starters David Andrews and Shaq Mason are both currently on IR for different reasons. This is coming against a Broncos team that boasts one terrifying pass rusher in Bradley Chubb and a whole host of talented defenders.
That defensive line is one of the better groupings in the NFL and not only harried Newton all day, but they shut down anything the Patriots tried to do. Heading into the game, New England was averaging 179 rush yards per game. The Broncos only allowed 117 on the day. The Patriots don't have good enough wide receivers to compensate when the running game isn't working unless they're going up against a porous secondary like they did in Seattle. Not only were the Patriots ill-prepared for the game as a result of external circumstances, the Broncos took away the bread and butter of their offense. It would have been difficult to produce offensively in a standard week, much less following the two weeks of inactivity the Patriots endured.
The point is that there are plenty of reasons to be worried about Newton and the Patriots, but nothing on Sunday suggested those reasons are impossible to overcome. They still had the ball with a chance to take the lead in the final five minutes of the game. I'm not sure Bill Belichick could have asked for much more when taking everything into account. If they look like this next week, that's another discussion entirely.