Keeping up with the 617: Finding Optimism for the Patriots

Most of New England was not expecting this rollercoaster start to the Patriots’ season. It’s been a whirlwind of COVID-19 cases, big letdowns and surprising performances; or maybe, sans the pandemic, this is a normal season and we’ve just been spoiled by 20 years of Tom Brady — who knows. However, even with the gauntlet that the Patriots had for the first four weeks of the season, their current 2–3 record is nothing short of a disappointment. Against the Kansas City Chiefs, their defense held Patrick Mahomes and their juggernaut offense to 13 points through three quarters. If Cam Newton wasn’t diagnosed with COVID-19 two days prior, the Patriots could’ve won that game. Furthermore, the Patriots miraculously outplayed the Seattle Seahawks in Week 2 until they couldn’t execute in the red zone. As a passionate Patriots fan, it’s brutal to witness them continuing to fall short in the big moments. Against the Denver Broncos, Cam Newton was leading a fantastic two-minute drill until, on fourth and 10, N’Keal Harry ran the wrong route and slipped while doing so — another crucial mistake in crunch time. The 18–12 defeat to the mediocre Denver Broncos will sting for the next few days. You simply cannot lose those types of games, especially in a season like 2020.

Although I might be sounding pessimistic, New England fans should not be sounding the alarm bells just yet. Other than the Broncos game, Cam Newton was spectacular for the first three weeks of the season; his timing with his receivers was perfect and his game style electrified the New England offense. He might not be 2015 MVP Cam Newton, but he has enough talent to lead a solid offense. Moving to the defensive side of the ball, the pass defense continued its dominance from last year and is striking fear into opposing quarterbacks. Against the Broncos, the secondary caused two game-changing turnovers that led to a tremendous field position for the offense. Even with the ridiculous arm of Drew Lock, the secondary was able to keep the damage to a minimum. Although they lost some key players due to COVID-19 opt-outs, the Patriots’ defense is still better than most. The defensive run scheme needs some improvement, but I am still satisfied with the state of the defense.

This season truly comes down to who can avoid a COVID-19 outbreak; the Patriots have already dealt with two postponed games as five players on the roster have been confirmed to have tested positive. You could also certainly blame the lack of a preseason for the various injuries on the offensive line, which was a wet paper towel against the Broncos’ pass rush. Simply put, the Patriots need to stay healthy this season. As much as it pains me to say this, the Patriots are not a guaranteed lock to clinch a playoff spot. After six weeks, the Patriots are third in the AFC East behind the Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins, a sentence I have never heard in the 19 years I’ve been a Patriots fan.

However, there are still reasons to be optimistic; we do have one of the greatest schematic coaches of all time in Bill Belichick and our key players have the talent to perform at a high level. Although the season is far from over, I might be hitting the panic button soon if this team doesn’t improve.