Monday Night Football reaction: The Patriots squeaked past the lowly Jets, but glaring issues remain

New England Patriots quarterback Cam Newton reaches for the endzone during win over the New York Jets on Monday Night Football
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Andrew Ortenberg

NFL · 1 year ago

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I'm an editor here at Pickswise who was raised in a household full of sports fanatics. Since I unfortunately never had LeBron James' jumping ability I wasn't able to make it to the NBA, and chose writing about sports as the next best thing. An avid sports bettor myself, I'm excited to get to write about the industry as it gets set to take off across the country. Buckle up.

A win is a win, and the New England Patriots will surely take their victory over the New York Jets on Monday. But the win was far from impressive, and all the nationally televised game did was expose the glaring issues this Pats team has. There are major question marks on both sides of the ball, and while snapping a four-game losing streak is nice they’re still in a deep hole at 3-5.

They have faced a fairly difficult schedule thus far, and they aren’t completely out of the playoff hunt, but things are pretty bleak. I’ve defended this Patriots team more than most, but I’m not sure I can do it much longer. A come from behind nail-biter over the 0-9 Jets isn’t really doing it for me. Let’s dive in:

The defense is an absolute sieve

There’s been a lot of talk about Cam Newton’s struggles in recent weeks, deservedly so. But all the flak he is catching in the media has distracted from the fact that the defense has been even worse. For some reason it’s getting a fraction of the attention, but this secondary has quietly been one of the worst in the league. They entered Monday Night Football allowing an absurd 8.6 yards per pass attempt, the worst mark in the NFL.

Then Monday night happened, when they made a washed Joe Flacco look like Joe Montana in his prime. Flacco averaged 10.5 yards per attempt en route to 262 yards and three touchdowns. The same Flacco who failed to put up a single point in his most recent start against the Dolphins. The same Flacco who couldn’t move the ball at all on the Cardinals the week before that.

Breshad Perriman and Denzel Mims were frequently running wide open, and I just don’t see how their coverage problems are going to solve themselves. The Pats were hit harder than any other team in the league by COVID-19 opt outs, particularly on defense. Those opt outs have proved to be devastating, and that’s not going to change until 2021. Their next four games are against Lamar Jackson, Deshaun Watson, Kyler Murray, and Justin Herbert, four quarterbacks capable of putting up huge numbers, so things could get ugly moving forward.

Cam Newton still doesn’t look right

I hate to be too hard on Newton, especially after a victory. But even though he made some big throws late to win the Patriots the game, I’m not sold that he has turned a corner. He still missed several easy throws, and if I’m being honest he doesn’t look completely healthy.

Obviously a lot has been written about how he just doesn’t have the weapons, and that’s very true. Luckily the Pats had a functioning ground game on Monday night, but when Damien Harris isn’t on then the team doesn’t really have much of a chance in any given game.

Newton hasn’t showed that he can put the team on his back and carry them with his arm, and he hasn’t been lighting it up with his legs recently either. Bill Belichick has no great options, and I’m just not sure there’s an easy fix here. I wish I could offer a solution, but unfortunately it looks like the passing game is going to continue to be maddeningly inconsistent.

The bottom line

The Patriots can go to bed tonight feeling good, knowing they snapped a long losing streak. There’s certainly some hope in the air for the first time in a while, and maybe they’ll be able to build some momentum off this last-second win. But I’m not convinced that’s the case, and the secondary can’t cover anybody right about now. Newton hasn’t shown an ability to win games solely through his arm, and until that changes this team is going to continue to struggle mightily.

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