After 10 days of the NFL regular season, the New England Patriots sit third in their division, with just four games won. We are far, very far from the previous years, even decades, when the « Pats » were one of the most formidable formations in the championship.
The numbers are known: in the last 20 seasons, New England have won the Super Bowl six times and have qualified for the play-offs 17 times. Two years ago, the New England franchise was crowned champion, after beating the Los Angeles Rams (13-3), after an ultra-defensive Super Bowl.
But last season ended on a hitch. Despite a record of 12 wins and four losses, the Patriots were forced to play a wild card game during the play-offs and had been trapped by Tennessee (20-13). Tom Brady, the fabulous quarterback of the franchise, was at the end of his contract and, at 42, he wanted a new adventure, and signed up with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Disappointing Cam Newton
To replace him, the New England Patriots then set their sights on Cam Newton, the Carolina Panthers QB, MVP in 2015 and Super Bowl finalist that same year. Newton was coming off a shortened season after just two games, due to a foot injury. He too needed a new challenge, never having been able to confirm his good 2015 season.
But the mayonnaise does not take. Cam Newton has played nine games this season, and has thrown just 1900 yards and four touchdowns. And, on seven occasions, he was intercepted by the opposing defenses. Only positive point: Newton has regained the efficiency that was his when he runs with the ball. He’s already scored nine such TD’s this season.
Michel and Edelman injured
Usually, when a quarterback isn’t playing well, the whole offense is seized up. But beyond Cam Newton’s poor form, the Patriots were also penalized by the injuries of Sony Michel, their running back, and Julian Edelman, the star catcher, Super Bowl MVP in February 2019.
After a good game against Las Vegas (117 yards) at the end of September, Michel was injured in a quadriceps and missed seven games. He was not taken off the injured list until last Saturday. Damien Harris took over the interim, alternating the good and the less good. He still galloped 121 yards in the victory of New England over Baltimore (23-17), two weeks ago, probably the only brilliant stroke of the Patriots this season so far.
Edelman had started his season very well, collecting 179 yards against Seattle, his personal best, on the second day. But he then injured a knee and hasn’t been seen on an NFL field since the end of October.
In his absence, Damiere Byrd, the No. 1 receiver for New England, was rather discreet (469 yards), apart from the 132 yards gained against Houston last weekend. The good news for New England is that Julian Edelman is no longer on the injured list, either.
A lagging defense
Finally the defense of the Patriots is not at its best either. Last year, she was the best in the NFL. This season, it is dragging itself (13th in the number of yards and 16th in the number of points, collected on average per game). But the New England defensive squad was not immune to departures and injuries either.
Among her senior players, she lost the linebackers Jamie Collins and Kyle Van Noy, his two best “sackers”, who went to Detroit and Miami respectively. Dont’a Hightower, another linebacker, has decided not to play this year, due to the coronavirus pandemic. Their replacements (Adrian Phillips, Chase Winovich, John Simon) are in the depths of the statistical rankings.
Last season the cornerback Stephon Gilmore was voted best defenseman in the championship, after having made six interceptions. But, this year, it is going much less well. Gilmore missed three matches, including testing positive for Covid-19. And he was only able to grab a pass from an opposing quarterback once.
Jackson, only thinning for the Patriots
But, in this area, the Patriots are smiling for once. They can indeed count on JC Jackson, who is currently the best interceptor in the NFL (six interceptions), tied with Xavien Howard (Miami Dolphins).
During the Tom Brady era, the New England Patriots had already missed the play-offs (in 2002 and 2008). But they had never finished a season with a negative record. To hope that this does not happen this season and to still believe in the play-offs, the « Pats » will practically have to achieve a clear round until the end of the regular season.
This will therefore mean a victory against the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday (7 p.m. live on the L’Équipe website) on the 12th day of the regular season.