The New England Patriots are in a tailspin as they just dropped their third-straight game in a row, losing 33-6 to the injury-riddled San Francisco 49ers at home. They have lost three games in a row for the first time since 2002 and sit at 2-4, 2.5 games behind the AFC East-leading Buffalo Bills. Their streak of winning 11 straight division titles appears to be in jeopardy as the Patriots’ grip on the AFC East is weakening. Here is my breakdown of the Patriots’ performance in Sunday’s loss.
Eight years ago, the 49ers, led by Colin Kaepernick, came into Foxborough and shut down the Patriots’ offense for over two quarters as they jumped out to a 31-3 lead. However, the Patriots came back to tie the game a quarter later before losing 41-34. In Sunday’s game, the 49ers once again shut down the Patriots offense but this time, it was for the entire game. The Patriots only gained 241 total yards and failed to score a touchdown for the first time since 2016 when Jacoby Brissett started Week 4 against the Bills during the final game of Tom Brady’s suspension, losing 16-0.
Cam Newton once again struggled, throwing for only 98 yards and three interceptions. His accuracy once again seemed off as he constantly short-armed passes. He looks like a shell of his former self and it’s a tough sight for Patriot fans to watch as they were hoping for a return to form from the 2015 NFL MVP. It got so bad that Newton was benched in the fourth quarter for backup Jarrett Stidham, who was 6-10 with 64 yards and an interception. The Patriots turned the ball over four times and allowed two sacks.
The Patriots gained 94 yards on the ground, including 58 from Damien Harris, who has now become the leading rusher behind Newton with 177 yards on the season as he has taken over for the injured Sony Michel. While they are still fourth in the NFL in rushing offense, they have slid to the ninth-worst total offense in the NFL.
Jakobi Meyers had his best game of the season with four catches for 60 yards in Sunday’s loss. However, Julian Edelman continues to have problems making catches as like in their loss at Kansas City a few weeks ago, he let the ball bounce off his hands into the arms of the defense, resulting in another interception. The more I watch this receiving corp, the more it amazes me the Patriots went 11-5 with a similar corp last season. They lack playmaking and with Newton’s increasing struggles, the offense has become stagnant, resulting in back-to-back home losses. With Brady finding immense success in Tampa Bay, it is becoming more and more clear Brady is better off without Belichick than Belichick is without Brady.
While the offense struggled mightily, the defense also deserves plenty of blame for this loss. They had no answer for Kyle Shanahan’s offense, allowing 467 total yards and 197 yards rushing. The 49ers are down their top running back, Raheem Mostert, but it seemed he was still playing as backup Jeff Wilson ran all over the defense for 112 yards and three touchdowns. Wilson seemed to just be more explosive than anyone, a trait shared by his teammates.
Rookie wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk torched the secondary for 115 yards on six receptions and 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo found his two favorite targets, George Kittle and Deebo Samuel, for a combined 10 catches for 120 yards. The only two plays the defense shined were on a sack by Lawrence Guy, the only sack the Patriots had all game, and Devin McCourty intercepted Garoppolo in the first quarter, setting up a field goal to make it a 7-3 game. Other than that, the defense was schooled by Shanahan and their former QB, Garoppolo. The 49ers were too creative and explosive for a defense which simply looked uninspired, old, and slow at times. As great as Belichick is, it is becoming increasingly difficult in the NFL to overcome a lack of talent and he is learning that the hard way this season.
Kicker Nick Folk was the only Patriot player to score in Sunday’s game, notching two field goals in the 33-6 loss. Punter Jake Bailey downed both punts inside the 49ers’ 20-yard line. Kick returner Gunner Olszewski returned six kicks for 155 yards, but fumbled the ball on a kick return in the second quarter, which he recovered, avoiding further disaster when down 16-3 in the second quarter.
The Patriots have one last chance to contend for the AFC East title as they head to Buffalo for a matchup with the division-leading Bills on Sunday.