Instant analysis from the Patriots’ 38-9 loss to the Bills:
⋅ Tom Brady is gone, the championship roster is being dismantled, and no one is afraid of the Patriots anymore. After 20 years embarrassing opponents, they are the ones getting pushed around and disrespected like an annoying kid brother.
The Bills clearly didn’t care they were 5-36 against Bill Belichick or 3-17 at Gillette Stadium. They had no respect for the Patriots’ defense, going for it on fourth down three times in the first half and converting all three. Josh Allen threw deep while leading, 31-9, in the second half, and former Patriots assistant Brian Daboll kept calling passes well into the fourth quarter, showing no mercy to the team that used to torment them.
The Bills ran a clinic, scheming up wide-open receivers, and the Patriots had a fake punt run against them for the second week in a row. The Dolphins had theirs called back by a penalty, but the Bills easily converted a throw when the Patriots neglected to cover the gunners. That’s a direct message from coaches Sean McDermott and Brian Flores to Belichick, the special teams master: “We’re not afraid of you.”
Monday’s loss was the Patriots’ third in a row, and marked the second time this year that they set a record for worst home loss under Belichick, unseating the 33-6 loss to the 49ers in Week 7. The Patriots are getting their tails kicked and can’t do anything about it.
⋅ How embarrassing for Belichick and the Patriots — they talked a bunch of smack on Monday night, and couldn’t back it up.
Belichick, usually the king of buttering up his opponent, apparently wouldn’t say any niceties about Allen to the ESPN crew in their production meeting.
“Talking with him this week, he didn’t buy into the Josh Allen craze,” Brian Griese said before the game. “He said, ‘You know what? We actually played pretty good defense against Josh Allen when we played in November.’ ”
“There was no question that Bill really got fired up when we were talking to him about potentially being swept, Josh Allen being one of the MVP favorites — he was not having any of it,” Louis Riddick added.
Belichick claimed ignorance when asked about after the game.
“I don’t know what they said,” Belichick said. “I’ve said multiple times that Josh Allen is a good football player and he’s having a good year.”
Monday was among its highlights. Allen, who was 1-3 with a 57.8 rating against Belichick, carved up the Patriots to the tune of 320 passing yards, four touchdowns, no interceptions, and a 138.7 rating. The Bills scored points on their first five drives, including four touchdowns, finished with 474 total yards, and held the ball for 39 minutes 41 seconds.
Allen, one of the top MVP contenders, finally slayed a Belichick defense. And cornerback J.C. Jackson, the Pro Bowl snub, made the mistake of trash-talking receiver Stefon Diggs in the first quarter after a pass breakup. Diggs burned Jackson for a 50-yard touchdown a few plays later, and finished the night with nine catches for 145 yards and three touchdowns.
Teams that have been eliminated from the playoffs and get blown out every week probably shouldn’t be talking trash.
⋅ Belichick finally gave Jarrett Stidham some extended playing time, putting him into the game with more than 8 minutes left in the third quarter and the Patriots trailing, 31-9. And Stidham did nothing.
He finished with 44 passing yards on 4 of 11 passing with a sack, and led the Patriots to three punts. It’s not totally fair to judge him when he comes in cold off the bench and hasn’t gotten many reps in practice during the week, but Stidham continues to do nothing to show that he deserves to be the quarterback.
The Newton-Stidham debate isn’t much of one at all. Neither can play.
⋅ Newton had a nice 9-yard scramble for a touchdown, but was non-functional in the passing game once again, finishing 5 of 10 for 34 yards and two sacks. Newton couldn’t even make basic throws, bouncing one to N’Keal Harry on third down that should have been an easy completion.
“Just a combination of things — protection, dropped balls, lack of good execution,” Belichick said. “Cam did a good job for us. That wasn’t the problem.”
Belichick, putting the blame on others, continues to show a stunning amount of loyalty toward Newton. I would love to know why.
⋅ It’s one thing not to have much talent — and I understand the Patriots were severely short-handed without Stephon Gilmore, Lawrence Guy, Ja’Whaun Bentley, Damien Harris, and Julian Edelman. But the depth is horrible. The Patriots have to be one of the most poorly constructed teams in recent NFL history.
Their starting quarterback has no arm strength or accuracy. Their receivers don’t create separation. The tight ends are doing nothing. The front seven has no athleticism and can’t stop the run. The pass rush is non-existent and the secondary is full of holes.
Other than that . . .
⋅ The Patriots are still making bad mistakes late in the season, which is a poor reflection on the coaching staff. Damiere Byrd opened the game with a brutal drop that spoiled a potential touchdown. Jackson had bad technique on Diggs’s 50-yard touchdown and played in front of, and not behind, the receiver. Adam Butler jumped offsides twice in four plays, including one that negated an interception. And rookie Devin Asiasi, who has zero catches on four targets this season, released too early from blitz pickup and gave up a bad sack at the end of the second quarter.
The Patriots have been outscored, 84-24, in three straight losses. Usually, the Patriots get better in December. This year, they collapsed.
⋅ Did anything go right? Well, the Patriots did run the ball pretty well. They had 17 rushes for 130 yards in the first half, including a 29-yard run by Sony Michel and a 28-yard run by J.J. Taylor. Jake Bailey had another monster night punting, averaging 51.7 yards on seven punts with a long of 62. And Nick Folk hit his 26th field goal in a row, though he did miss his third extra point of the season.
The run game, the punter, and the kicker. Your 2020 Patriots.
Ben Volin can be reached at email@example.com.