It was another rough outing for the New England Patriots, with the six-time Super Bowl champions falling to the Denver Broncos 18-12 at Gillette Stadium Sunday afternoon.
The Patriots fall to 2-3 on the season, meanwhile the Broncos improve their record to 2-3
Let's go over some takeaways immediately following New England's Week 6 loss.
NE Forced To Change O-Line Combo Several Times Again
With James Ferentz (reserve/COVID-19) and Shaq Mason (reserve/COVID-19) unavailable for Week 6, the Patriots were forced to get creative along the offensive line once again. That's why their lineup looked different, and a bit surprising to start the game.
New England's starting offensive line against Denver was as follows, from left to right: Justin Herron-Isaiah Wynn-Joe Thuney-Michael Onwenu-Jermaine Eluemunor. To make matters worse, Eluemunor left late in the first quarter due to an ankle injury, which forced second-year lineman Hjalte Froholdt into the game. Froholdt played right guard, while rookie Michael Ownenu shifted from right guard to right tackle. Then in the second half Herron moved from left tackle to right tackle, Wynn shifted to left tackle and Onwenu slid to left guard.
Patriots' Long Layover Was Evident In First Half
With injuries and lack of fluidity in the first half, it was evident that the two-week hiatus since their last game took a toll on New England on both sides of the football. Eluemunor went down in the first quarter, defensive tackle Adam Butler left in the second quarter with an elbow injury, the offense looked out of sync and the defense gave up chunks of yards to a banged-up Broncos offense.
Those are things that don't typically happen to a Patriots team under normal circumstances. However, the pandemic has caused last-minute adjustments over the past two weeks, which included just two practices for New England since their Week 4 game against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Offense Scorched By Turnovers
The going was tough for New England's offense when they had the ball in their hands, but the Patriots made matters worse by turning the football over several times against Denver.
Cam Newton's interceptions in the first and second half and Ryan Izzo's fumble in the second half led to scoring opportunities for the Broncos, albeit a trio of field goals. However, it was field goals by Brandon McManus that gave and helped maintain a lead for Denver the entire game, from start to finish.
Turning the football over consistently isn't a common theme in New England. However, that has been the theme over the past two games for the Patriots.
Patriots Defense Bended, But Didn't Break
Although the Broncos put enough points on the board to beat the Patriots, the scoreboard doesn't quite show the numerous times on Sunday in which New England's defenses bended but didn't break.
Despite giving up their fair share of big plays to Drew Lock and Denver's offense, the Patriots gave up no touchdowns to Denver. Instead, it was the leg of kicker Brandon McManus that put all 18 points on the board for Denver. On top of that, the unit forced two turnovers in the 4th quarter, which gave New England's offense ample times to put more points on the board, though that's not how the game played out.
There is still much to be desired by this New England defense, which looks like a shell of itself compared to last season. However, being stout in the red zone and keeping the Broncos out of the end zone was a promising performance for a team that had a roller coaster ride over the past two weeks due to COVID-19.
Get the latest Patriots news by joining the community. Click "Follow" at the top right of the page. Mobile users click the notification bell. Follow Devon on Twitter @DevClemNFL