There used to be a time when watching the New England Patriots play football was fun. That took place as recently as Week 2 against the Seattle Seahawks. Unfortunately, Pats Nation is now left wondering where that team went, including Bill Belichick and Cam Newton.
This all comes after a display that will go down as one of the worst of the Belichick era during a 33-6 loss to the San Fransisco 49ers. It would be a tough task to find a position in which the Patriots were not outplayed. The blowout loss will now New England's record sitting at 2-4 on the season.
Without further ado, let's jump right into analyzing this game and it's shortcomings by giving out grades to each positional group.
The quarterback play is the core of the offensive struggles for New England. Cam Newton was without question abysmal, with only 98 passing yards on nine completions and three interceptions. Poor reads, poor progressions, poor timing, poor throws, poor everything for the quarterback that had to bounce back after a poor Week 7 showing. Open receivers are not getting the football thrown their way by Newton. With his excuses for playing bad officially running out, the Patriots turned to his backup.
Jarrett Stidham was unimpressive in a mostly conservative offensive approach that was really only aiming to head to the locker room as opposed opposed to the end zone. Stidham would also follow in Newton's footsteps by tossing a ball of his own into the arms of a 49ers defender. When they started to try and string plays together and put together a drive through the air late in the fourth quarter, they fell short of achieving the only goal. That goal was to put up their second touchdown in two games. With this that type of quarterback play, two scores might be too much to ask at the moment.
Running Back: C
Damien Harris was the featured back against San Francisco and will likely handle the bulk of the carries moving forward for New England. He had an average game, nothing to write home about, in what was a terrible offensive performance.
While he never got going and didn't registered overly impressive numbers, he had a few flashes that could get some slightly encouraged about the youngster. Harris finished the day with 10 touches for 58 yards.
Wide Receiver: D
Not much good to talk about here. Julian Edelman is currently losing the race against Father Time. N'Keal Harry had to leave the game early. Damiere Byrd registered one reception. The top three targets on the Patriots were held to just three catches.
Jakobi Meyers had a good game just when it seemed like New England was ready to give up on him. He was the leading receiver four catches for 60 yards in what overall was not a good day for anyone wearing blue and red through the air.
Tight End: C-
I wrote that this week would be the week in which Devin Asiasi registered his first reception with New England. Instead, that man would be Dalton Keene. The Patriots opted to ride with the more true pass-catcher in Keene, knowing that New England would benefit more from a more pass-orientated approach against this San Fransisco defense. That obviously blew up in their face with poor quarterback play.
With poor quarterback play and very few completions to speak of in the game, it's hard to evaluate the tight end position. Both Keene and Ryan Izzo both caught eight-yard passes. More tight end production would be huge for the Patriots, however, they need someone who can deliver these youngsters the ball.
Offensive Line: B-
The offensive line played fine, giving up two sacks and pushing forward to help the running backs average 4.3 yards per carry. This wasn't their best performance either, and in addition had some injuries along the line. Joe Thuney, Justin Herron and Isaiah Wynn all got banged up in the contest. Thuney and Herron both left the game and didn't return.
The good news is that Newton did have some time in the pocket, which highlights how a banged-up offensive line is still one of the most consistent parts of the offense.
Defensive Line: C-
The 49ers were not a good matchup for the New England defense and it showed. However, that still doesn't take away from the fact that the Patriots were torn apart on the ground and the run game led the way to victory for San Fransisco.
Despite the personnel being tailored towards a more run-heavy, play-action style approach, the job was not getting done up front. The edge was not being set, running backs were reaching the second level almost every time. The two top backs for San Fransisco averaged over six yards per carry.
Chase Winovich, someone who has been fantastic to start the season, has been seeing his snaps decrease over the last two games. He also has been very productive with his limited reps. The reason why is unclear. He's arguably the best edge-setter on this team, although John Simon also has a valid case for that award as well.
There is not too much to breakdown here. In the end, everything came down to speed. When the linebackers were getting picked on in the flats, there was little to be done. They just didn't have the speed to get there. The backfield and the end arounds killed this group. Outmatched and not capable to do much more. Credit to Kyle Shanahan for figuring out how to pick on this group and also devising a plan to get after the secondary too.
This is suppose to be the strength of the team and the defense, however, even this unit was not immune to an overall bad day against the 49ers. Despite two interceptions on Jimmy Garoppolo, there were coverage breakdowns on a day in which Garoppolo overall was good. He flashed with some strong throws against New England’s defense and threw for nearly 300 yards against.
In the end, despite numerous attempts, the secondary had issues keeping up with the speedy receivers of San Fransisco. Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel had some fun at the expense of New England. Those two players were irritating ones to bring down for the Patriots' secondary.
Special teams: B
Gunner Olszewski had a few fine returns, however, he also put the ball on the ground and took a beating on some of the kickoffs. He might need an ice bath or two after that game.
Nick Folk was the only point-scorer for the Patriots. He was 2-for-2 on field goals and had a long of 41 yards. Overall, a fine day for him.
Jake Bailey also had a fine day with his only two punts landing within the 20-yard line. It's almost surprising his number was only called twice to punt the ball away.
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