There may not be a more miserable fanbase in sports right now than the New England Patriots’. Today’s game might have been the most heartbreaking. With less than a minute left and the Patriots trailing by three, Cam Newton fumbled on Buffalo’s 14-yard line. As a result, the Patriots dropped to 2-5, almost surely sealing their fate as a seller at the trade deadline and setting them up for their first losing season since 2000. Here are a few of my thoughts on the loss:
Harris showed flashes of potential over his last few games, and he took full advantage of the opportunity to be New England’s workhorse on Sunday. The second-year back out of Alabama rushed 16 times for 102 yards and a touchdown. Harris was easily the Patriots’ best offensive player, consistently exposing Buffalo’s weak run defense. With backfield mate Sony Michel’s recent struggles and injuries, Harris has a legitimate shot to secure the starting job moving forward.
For the second-straight week, Meyers was New England’s best receiver, this time racking up six receptions for 58 yards. The undrafted wideout has earned Cam Newton’s trust and should continue to excel with Julian Edelman out for multiple weeks and N’Keal Harry dealing with a concussion.
After a lackluster first half in which the Patriots only managed to hit two field goals, the offense came alive in the second half. Cam Newton and company marched down the field on back-to-back drives, scoring in 5 and 7 plays respectively. After multiple weeks where it looked like New England couldn’t move the ball, it was encouraging to see them find the endzone twice in one half.
Bill Belichick’s defenses have historically been built on tough defensive lines. That hasn’t been the case so far this year, and that trend continued on Sunday. The Patriots allowed Buffalo to rush for a whopping 190 yards. You can’t win football games if your defense can’t get off the field, and your defense can’t get off the field if they’re unable to stop the run. It’s that simple.
On the few occasions where New England appeared to be putting together a solid drive, multiple unnecessary penalties repeatedly killed their progress. For example, in the first quarter, Cam Newton hit Jakobi Meyers for 17 yards, driving the Patriots into field goal territory. Joe Thuney was flagged for holding, though, and the play didn’t count. Careless penalties like that plagued New England throughout the entire game, killing multiple drives with scoring potential.
After this loss, the Patriots sit at 2-5, and firmly out of playoff contention. While New England technically still has a chance to make the postseason, it would require a hot streak that this team doesn’t appear capable of producing. As Tuesday’s trade deadline approaches, Bill Belichick has a lot of decisions to make.
Next up: New England travels to New York to face the Jets on Monday Night at 8:15 p.m. (ET)
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