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New England ‘out-everythinged’ at home vs. 49ers
The most successful, longest-lasting dynasty in the NFL’s 100-year history is kaput. Done. Finished.
Sure looks like it, anyway.
On Sunday in Foxboro the host New England Patriots got absolutely plastered by the San Francisco 49ers, 33-6, to fall to 2-4 on the season.
Let that sink in. The Patriots — Bill Belichick’s Patriots — are 2-4, and looking for all the world as though they’re going nowhere beyond the scheduled end of the NFL regular season on Jan. 3. That’s more than two months away.
Indeed, the Patriots seem as unlikely to reach the Super Bowl this season — for the 10 th time this century, for a chance to win No. 7 — as any other 2-4 tomato-can team you’ve ever seen.
According to ESPN, the 27-point loss was the worst at home in the 21-season Belichick era in New England, and tied for second worst anywhere.
The Patriots have lost three in a row. They’d gone an incredible 286 games without enduring a three-game losing skid — an NFL record.
The loss was every bit as thorough as the score suggests. New England got outgained 467 total yards to 241, out-possessed 38:23 to 21:37. The Niners led 23-3 at halftime, and the Patriots offence never advanced inside San Fran’s 22-yard line all day.
Usually after losses — albeit infrequent for the Patriots since 2001 — Belichick is notoriously grumpy and curt with reporters. But this time, via video conferencing, with most of his face shielded by a COVID-19 mask, Belichick appeared and sounded more sympathetic and sad than surly, as unheard millions of Patriots haters across North America surely yukked it up.
“We didn’t do enough of anything tonight, really, to be competitive,” he said. “We were clearly outcoached, outplayed — out-everythinged.”
“We didn’t perform well enough in any area — coaching, playing, offence, defence, special teams, running, passing, defending the run, defending the pass, ball security, tackling, blocking. Nothing was good enough. Maybe I left something out, but we’ve just got to do a better job all the way across the board.”
Going forward, Patriots coaches and fans ought to be most concerned with quarterback Cam Newton. He was flat-out terrible against the Niners. Feeble even, completing 9-of-15 for 98 yards three ugly interceptions and an awful 39.7 passer rating. On the ground, Newton gained only 19 yards, few by design.
The 2015 NFL MVP seems to have altered his throwing delivery this season, and something’s just not clicking. Three times while rolling left or throwing left his passes skipped off the Gillette Stadium artificial turf well before reaching their targets.
Newton in the pocket again this week looked hesitant, unsure, confused.
There could be all kinds of excuses for his eroding play.
Maybe he’s hurt. That’d explain the few designed runs, in contrast to September games. That’d explain the weak throws. And that’d explain why he looked too often as though he needed all his might to heave the ball 20 yards.
Look, Newton is new to all the demands, verbiage and pass routes inherent in the New England offence, as coordinated by Josh McDaniels since 2012. And he only joined the Patriots in late June, after getting dumped in March by the team that drafted him in 2011, the Carolina Panthers.
But you know what? A slew of quarterbacks this NFL season were in the same boat: no in-person spring practices and fewer summer practices in a condensed training camp.
And none of them are looking as bad as Newton in New England.
Belichick yanked the 31-year-old with nearly a full quarter to play, for second-year Jarrett Stidham, who played even worse: 39.2 passer rating, including the Pats’ fourth pick of the day.
Is Newton still the starter, going forward?
“Yeah, absolutely,” Belichick said. “I just wanted to give Stidham a little experience here.”
They’re not used to these kinds of experiences in New England.
The loss dropped the Patriots — AFC East champions for the past 11 seasons, and 16 of 17 — deeper into third place in the division, behind the idle 3-3 Miami Dolphins and 5-2 Buffalo Bills, who out-field-goaled the host New York Jets earlier in the day, 18-10.
The Pats, at least, are a good bet to stay ahead of the 0-7 Jets — not an accolade the Krafts are likely to squeeze into their stadium-lobby trophy case.
MEANTIME, TOM BRADY SIZZLED
If you watched the played Patriots-49ers and Buccaneers-Raiders games simultaneously, on different screens, the dichotomy was hard to ignore.
There was Newton struggling big time, and the Patriots getting blown out worse than Tom Brady ever did in his 282 of 283 starts in New England from 2001-19.
And there, on the other screen, was Brady — looking about as crisp, as certain, as prolific and as dangerous in passing as he ever had during his two-decade partnership with Belichick.
The 43-year-old threw for four touchdowns and ran for one, in Tampa Bay’s 45-20 destruction of the Raiders in Las Vegas. The Bucs improved to 5-2, still on top in the NFC South.
Brady completed 33 of 45 (73%) for 339 yards, without an interception. He sprayed the ball all over the field — long, wide and short — to nine different receivers. Unlike the hiccupping Newton, Brady released the ball so quickly, so often, that he wasn’t sacked at all and got hit only once.
“If you let Tom Brady stand back there and survey the field,” Raiders head coach Jon Gruden said, “he’s still one of the very, very best,”
YA GOTTA GIVE IT UP TO MAYFIELD
Baker Mayfield sure stepped up. With his job perhaps on the line, and with his Cleveland Browns trailing at Cincinnati 7-0 after he threw a terrible interception on his first throw, and after he started out 0-for-5 in the first quarter, the 2017 No. 1 overall draft pick was practically perfect.
Over the final three quarters Mayfield completed 22 of 23 (96%) for 297 yards and five touchdowns in leading the Browns to a 37-34 last-minute win.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020