After an unexpectedly decisive 33-6 loss to the 49ers on Sunday, the Patriots (2-4) are being written off by analysts and pundits across the NFL.
A wave of reactions broke on Monday, almost uniformly criticizing quarterback Cam Newton. The 31-year-0ld former NFL MVP, who signed with the Patriots on a one-year contract in July, threw three interceptions before being benched.
“This is concerning now for New England,” ESPN analyst Dan Orlovsky told “Get Up!” on Monday. “I thought because of the COVID layoff for two weeks he might bounce back, but mechanically he looks flawed. He doesn’t look comfortable or confident in the pocket, and this offense is as bad as I thought it could ever be in New England.”
“I love Cam Newton, but this is not Cam Newton,” former coach Rex Ryan added after Orlovsky. “I mean not the guy that we remember. It was fool’s gold in Week 2. We all saw that and said he looks great. No, Seattle gives up 500 yards a game. What we’re seeing now is a guy that has poor mechanics.
“It’s just awful,” Ryan added of the New England offense. “For three years now I think I’ve been saying how awful the talent is there. I don’t need Next Gen Stats even though they exist. There’s no separation, so guys can’t get open. He can’t him them even if they are open. This is a disaster right now in New England.”
Ryan’s brother, Rob, echoed the sentiment in commentary for Sky Sports.
“The truth is, the whole team stinks right now,” Ryan said, according to NBC Sports columnist Peter King. “I’ve never seen worse run defense on the perimeter.”
King’s own assessment was equally blunt.
“The Patriots look far worse than the Bengals.”
Of course, the Patriots have been here before, in a sense. Experts have written off Bill Belichick’s team dozens of times over the years.
Whether it was Tom Jackson infamously declaring that Patriots players “hate their coach” in 2003, or Trent Dilfer’s memorable “they’re not good anymore” assertion in 2014, New England fans have heard plenty of pundits erroneously predict the team’s impending doom.
One voice who at least attempted to place his remarks in that context was former NFL (and Patriots) executive Mike Lombardi.
“In 2014 when we lost to the Kansas City Chiefs, they thought the world was coming to an end then,” said Lombardi in an interview with NESN. “That was the end of the dynasty too, and then three more Super Bowls later, it still was going on.
But even Lombardi had to note that the Patriots have not looked like a team poised to bounce back given the display against the 49ers.
“Look, you can’t sugarcoat it. It was bad,” said Lombardi. “They didn’t play well in any phase. There’s a lot of work to do. They’re like a lot of teams now. When you don’t get good play at quarterback, your team falls apart. When you turn the ball over, your team falls apart. When you don’t stop teams that can run the ball outside from running the ball, things fall apart. So this isn’t just one thing.”
Perhaps predictably, Fox Sports’ Skip Bayless offered a harsher appraisal:
PATRIOT NATION: You could’ve had Brady for three more years. Instead, he’s turning the “Suckaneers” into the NFC’s best team. Your coach wanted Brady gone so your coach could prove he could win without the GOAT QB. Blame Belichick for your 2-4 mess.
— Skip Bayless (@RealSkipBayless) October 25, 2020
Bayless’s former colleague, Stephen A. Smith, was more sympathetic in the circumstances of the Patriots’ difficult 2020 journey.
“Oh it’s panic time,” Smith of New England’s current trajectory. “It’s definitely panic time, I don’t think there’s any question about that when you consider what we’re witnessing going on in the AFC, combined with what the Buffalo Bills are playing combined with he way the New England Patriots look.
“I feel sorry for the Patriots,” he added. “I’m worried about Cam. I feel bad for the Patriots because about nine different defensive players don’t want to show up because of COVID-19. And then you’ve got a situation where you have to stop practices and shut down facilities on at least two or three occasions for crying out loud. I’m looking at all of those things, with a new quarterback, and I’m like damn. Regardless of how great Bill Belichick is, that is a lot to overcome when practices are interrupted and you can’t do what you normally do.”
Looking down the road, Smith — who, even by his own measurement, hasn’t always been the most accurate at predicting the future — offered a stark assessment.
“The way it’s looking right now they might not even make the playoffs.”
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