By Alex Barth, 985TheSportsHub.com
Sunday’s Patriots game against the Broncos was unlike any we’ve seen from a Bill Belichick-coached team in a long time. There were a number of statistical and historical numbers (few good) from the Patriots throughout the afternoon.
Here’s a recap on some of what you may have missed, plus other observations before we turn the page to San Francisco.
1. The Patriots are 2-3 for only the second time under Bill Belichick. They also started 2-3 in 2001, and we all remember how that season ended.
2. By my count the Patriots were without 15 starters yesterday, if you include players who opted out before the season due to COVID. Obviously the performance was flat by those on the field, but keep in mind Bill Belichick was working with a shell of the roster he built back in the spring.
3. The Patriots remain the least-penalized team in the league. There was only one call against them yesterday – a very questionable defensive hold on Stephon Gilmore in the end zone. New England has nearly half as many penalties (12) as the next closest teams (Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks, 23) so far.
4. Cam Newton targeted running backs (nine times) almost as much as he did wide receivers (13). Meanwhile, he only targeted Ryan Izzo three times. Is it time to shift the personnel around?
5. When asked about his confidence in the Patriots’ skill position players after the game, Newton replied “extremely high.” That was his entire answer.
6. Between holding the ball too long and a patchwork offensive line, Newton was sacked a season-high four times on Sunday. He had been sacked just five times in his previous three games.
7. Even with all of that going on in front of him, Newton was able to pass a major milestone in his career. His 38-yard run in the fourth quarter put him over 5,000 rushing yards for his career. He’s only the second quarterback to ever reach that mark, along with fellow first-overall pick Mike Vick (6,109 career rushing yards).
8. Cam Newton actually had the second-highest passer rating on the Patriots Sunday. Julian Edelman had more passing yards (38) than receiving yards (8) with the same number of completions as receptions (2). Edelman is the first Patriots non-quarterback to throw two or more passes in the same game since 1986, when Craig James went 1-for-2 with a 10-yard touchdown pass to Tony Collins in a 20-6 win over the Jets. The only other Patriots player to do so was Andy Johnson – He went 2-for-2 for 24 yards and threw an eight-yard touchdown pass to Mosi Tatupu in a 29-28 loss to the then-Baltimore Colts in the 1981 season opener.
9. When he wasn’t playing quarterback, Edelman had a rough go of it on Sunday. He was targeted six times but only caught two passes, making it just the fourth time in his career he’s caught 33-percent or fewer of his targets when being regularly involved in the game plan. It’s not like the passes were off the mark, he just had trouble getting separation consistently. His usual explosiveness out of his cuts seemed to be missing. Perhaps it was the result of not getting on the field for two weeks, but the Patriots need him to find his old burst, and fast.
10. Don’t let what the Patriots did offensively distract you from how well the defense played, particularly the secondary. Drew Lock was held to just 10-of-24 passing, the lowest completion percentage by a quarterback with at least 24 throws this season. Still, Lock looked good for the first 55 minutes of the game. He made plenty of accurate throws (especially on the opening drive), but the Patriots defense just made better plays.
11. The Broncos’ leading receiver on the day was Tim Patrick, who had four catches for 101 yards. Watching Patrick, it’s hard not to think he’s the exact kind of target the Patriots need. At 6-foot-4, 212 pounds and with above average speed, his size creates natural separation down the field, and he’s not afraid to fight off a defensive back (or two) for the football. A 2017 UDFA, Patrick is currently in the early stages of a breakout season.
12. Entering Sunday’s game, the Patriots were undefeated under Bill Belichick when not allowing a touchdown, and had won their last 39 such games, going back to 1998. In the 15 such games prior, they were somehow only 9-6, including three straight losses in the early 90’s.
13. Sunday was the second time in team history the Patriots have allowed six field goals in a game. Olindo Mare hit six kicks in a 31-30 Dolphins win in Foxborough in 1999. That game was also a Week 6, Game 5 matchup.
14. Three active players didn’t get into the game yesterday for the Patriots. Among the three was wide receiver Jakobi Meyers, just a game after he was a healthy scratch against Kansas City. The second-year UDFA has played only 22 snaps this season, with one catch. With his limited usage and lack of a special teams role, he could be a candidate to be removed from the roster as players start coming back off IR. The other two DNPs were backup quarterback Jarrett Stidham, and offensive lineman Caleb Benenoch.
15. On the injury front, the biggest loss in the game was right tackle Jermaine Eluemunor, who had to be carried to the locker room early in the game after getting rolled up on. There’s been no update on his condition in the 24 hours after the game. Defensive tackle Adam Butler left at one point but returned, albeit with an elbow brace. Tight end Ryan Izzo got the wind knocked out of him at one point, but returned just a play later.
16. A number of Patriots players were wearing masks on the sideline during the game, the first time we’ve seen that this season. It was an eerie reminder throughout the day of the constant battle the Patriots are in right now with COVID-19.
17. Bill Belichick is now 10-10 against the Broncos as the head coach of the Patriots. That’s the most wins by a non-division opponent against Belichick (and actually double the Bills’ total), and they are now one of only three teams to be .500 or better against the Patriots since 2000 (the Seahawks and Panthers are both 3-3).
18. Next week, the Patriots welcome Jimmy Garoppolo back to New England for the first time. It will be the 16th time Bill Belichick has faced one of his former quarterbacks, but just the third time he’s up against a quarterback he brought into the league himself. Of the four QBs to face Belichick after playing for him, Vinny Testaverde (who played for Bill in Cleveland) has had the best luck at 3-4, followed by Drew Bledsoe at 1-5. Brian Hoyer and Matt Cassel are each 0-1 against their first boss.