Written by: NFL

Reports of the Patriots demise have been greatly exaggerated

Two weeks ago the New England Patriots hit rock bottom, and most people considered their season over. But, in typical Patriots fashion, just when you count them out, they come right back at you.

November 1, 2020 – Cam Newton takes the snap from David Andrews and keeps the ball for himself, he cuts to the left where Isiaha Wynn throws a huge block, and Newton passes the first down marker. Trailing by three points and the Patriots already in field goal range to tie up the game, Newton is thinking only touchdown. Three Buffalo Bills players converge on Newton, and as he cuts to the left to pick up the much needed additional yardage with 37-seconds left in the game, suddenly Buffalo Bills defensive tackle Justin Zimmer punches the ball, and forces Newton to fumble the football. With no other Patriots player in the vicinity of the play, Buffalo easily recovers the football and hands the Patriots their fourth consecutive loss of the season. As Cam Newton sat frustrated on the bench, everybody knew, the Patriots season just died in Buffalo… 

“I am still jeopardizing this team’s success because of my lackluster performance of protecting the football. Coach trusts me with the ball in my hand and I wouldn’t want it any other way. I just have to do a better job protecting it.”

That was Cam Newton’s reaction after the Buffalo loss. The Patriots season was starting to shape up as a “What if?” type of season. A yard short against the Seattle Seahawks, the COVID-19 game against the Chiefs, missing a wide open N’Keal Harry against the Denver Broncos, the fumble against the Bills, how could the 2-5 Patriots possibly turn their season around? 

It started in New York against the then 8-0 Jets. Outside of the fumble, Newton showed a vast improvement against the Bills, and everybody rooting for the Patriots and not wishing that Bill Belichick just tank the season, was hoping to see Newton build off his strong performance in Buffalo. 

“One thing I do know about this team is once we get that first one, that next one is almost, ‘OK, we remember how to win,” Newton said prior to the Patriots game against the Jets. “OK, we know how this feels. This is where situational football kicks in, let’s do a better job of doing this”

“But all in all, as an offense, I think we’re extremely close,” Cam Newton said, via Zack Cox of NESN. “If we just keep stacking bricks on top of bricks on top of bricks, then hopefully we can put a full 60 minutes together this weekend.”

The New York Jets didn’t make it easy on the Patriots, led by Joe Flacco, the Jets were able to garner 322-yards of offense, and in the dying minutes of the game the Patriots and the Jets were tied at 27 a piece. 

One thing that Patriots fans hadn’t seen from Cam Newton yet was a “Tom Brady moment”. For twenty years, anytime New England had the ball in their hands at the end of the game, it was almost guaranteed that Brady was going to figure out a way to score. Up to this point, Newton had fallen short three times. The Patriots moved the football efficiently, and Newton’s last throw of the game was a strike to emerging star Jakobi Meyers, to set up a 51-yard Nick Folk field goal attempt. Folk who missed a shorter field goal and an extra point earlier in the season, came up clutch and kicked the game winner. The Patriots found themselves in the win column for the first time in six weeks, but the narrative was clear, they only beat the Jets, everybody beats the Jets, and now Baltimore is coming in next week. 

Every game for the Patriots is a must-win-game moving forward. It will take a record of 10-6 or 11-5 to find themselves in the playoffs, and loss to Baltimore last night would have put New England in an impossible situation.

The night started out perfect for the Patriots, they stopped the Ravens offense on their first possession, while Cam Newton and Damien Harris were able to move the ball on the Patriots first possession. Even though New England didn’t score any points, there was a feeling that they may have a formula to beat the Ravens, turns out they did. 

The offense ran through Damien Harris, but the offense got key contributions from Rex Burkhead, James White, and Jakobi Meyers. The highlight of the game was when Meyers showed off his balling pass ability, throwing a beautiful arching ball to Rex Burkhead for a touchdown. Cam Newton played safe and took care of the football. On the defensive side, the Patriots did a good job neutralizing Lamar Jackson, and held the Ravens offense to only 115 rushing yards. Josh Uche, Chase Winovich, and John Simon, all played great games, and JC Jackson continued to prove that he can lockdown as the CB1 in Stephon Gilmore’s absence, hauling in his sixth interception of the season. Jackson currently has a five game interception streak. 

The game plan was sound, and credit must be given to Bill Belichick, Steve Blichick, and Josh McDaniels. The coaching staff had a great game, and the Patriots simplistic approach the last three games seems to be the difference maker.

2-5 seems like forever ago, the Patriots are still sporting a losing 4-5 record, but defeating the Ravens has given them the cushion they needed to continue moving forward with the season. This shouldn’t be surprising to anybody though. Heading into the trade deadline there were a lot of people who expected the Patriots to be sellers, instead Belichick was a buyer, a clear message to his locker room that he’s not ready to give up on the season. The road ahead of the Patriots is long and hard, but what seemed impossible just two weeks ago, now seems more probable than ever before. The Bills are coming off a heartbreaking defeat to the Arizona Cardinals, and the Patriots with three divisional games still on their schedule, the AFC East is no longer out of reach for New England.

Buffalo is heading into the bye and the Patriots are heading to Houston. A victory over the Texans will cut the Bills lead on the Patriots to two games, and with a game left to play between the two, it will put more pressure onto Buffalo to continue performing at high levels. The NFL is the most exciting league in the world. Just two weeks ago people were writing off New England and erging Bill Belichick to blow up the team, and now New England is back in the conversation, for how long? Nobody knows, but for today, it’s “Victory Monday”, and to celebrate victory Monday, let’s all remember Rex Ryan’s words two weeks ago. 

“It’s over, it’s flat-out over, They’re four games behind Buffalo. … They’re not going to a wild card. … The playoff run is over and pass the torch to the Buffalo Bills. I think they’re going to be behind Miami when it’s all said and done as well, so we’ll see.”

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