The New England Patriots got dealt a devastating blow when Cam Newton tested positive for COVID-19. As a result, Bill Belichick had to resort to starting Brian Hoyer against the Kansas City Chiefs. Tom Brady’s longtime backup failed miserably in his first start as a Patriot.
However, even though they fell to 2-2, the Patriots sent a scary message to the rest of the NFL about their Super Bowl potential. Because if Monday night proved anything, it’s that the combination of Belichick and Newton gives the Patriots a legitimate chance to topple the Chiefs from their AFC throne.
New England and Kansas City entered Week 4 as top AFC contenders
The Patriots and Chiefs entered Week 4 as two of the top teams in the AFC. Of course, Cam Newton played a significant role in New England’s early success.
In his historic Patriots debut, the former No. 1 overall pick threw for 155 yards and racked up 75 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. He followed up with a sensational performance against the Seattle Seahawks that included 397 passing yards and three total touchdowns.
Meanwhile, the Chiefs easily took down the Houston Texans in Week 1 before barely edging out the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 2. Patrick Mahomes proceeded to thoroughly outplay Lamar Jackson in a 34-20 victory against the Baltimore Ravens.
That set up an exciting showdown between the two most recent Super Bowl champions. However, with Newton and Chiefs QB Jordan Ta’amu testing positive for COVID-19, the NFL had to postpone the game until Monday night.
The Patriots sent a scary message about their Super Bowl potential
While the final score may have been 26-10, the Patriots played a highly competitive game against the reigning champions. And in doing so, they sent a scary message about their Super Bowl potential.
First, consider that New England entered the matchup with key pieces missing on both sides of the ball. Besides Newton, the Patriots did not have starting offensive linemen Shaq Mason or David Andrews available. Running back Sony Michel landed on injured reserve prior to the game.
Plus, a defense missing Dont’a Hightower and Pat Chung faced a huge test against Mahomes and his crew of weapons. A unit featuring several young, inexperienced players managed to hold the NFL’s most dangerous offense to just two first-half field goals.
The game also featured some questionable calls by the officials, including a controversial play in which referees ruled Mahomes’ forward progress had been stopped on what looked to be a strip sack. Rather than New England taking over the ball with excellent field position, Kansas City punted. And after allowing the Patriots to drive the ball into the red zone, the Chiefs sacked Brian Hoyer to end the half.
Still, the Patriots showcased scary potential thanks to breakout performances by some unproven players. Damien Harris racked up 100 yards on 17 carries. Damiere Byrd led all receivers with five catches for 80 yards. Harry showed great body control to haul in New England’s only touchdown.
An offensive line that started two rookie sixth-round pick surrendered just two sacks, both of which could be blamed on Hoyer. New England’s front seven held Kansas City to just 3.8 yards per carry thanks to solid efforts from Deatrich Wise, Lawrence Guy, and Chase Winovich.
Overall, Belichick may be upset about the number of mental errors his team committed, but he also has to feel confident about New England’s Super Bowl potential…with Cam Newton in the lineup.
The Chiefs loss proves Cam Newton makes all the difference
Considering all the circumstances involved in Monday night’s loss, the Patriots have to feel confident about their chances of competing for a title this season with Cam Newton under center.
Brian Hoyer failed to capitalize on his first start in a Patriots uniform. The veteran backup simply made too many costly mental errors that resulted in points being left on the field. While Jarrett Stidham did throw an impressive touchdown pass, he also tossed two interceptions on just 13 attempts.
With Newton running the show, however, the Patriots look like an entirely different team. His dual-threat skillset allows Josh McDaniels to open up the playbook and unleash his creativity. Plus, his ability to extend plays would have made a huge difference on Monday night.
Ultimately, if Newton had played against the Chiefs, the game could have easily swung in the other direction. New England had Kansas City on the ropes in the first half, but Hoyer failed to land the knockout blow.
But if these two teams meet again with Cam Newton starting at quarterback, the story could end much differently. Don’t be surprised if the Patriots and Chiefs see each other again in the AFC Championship for the opportunity to go to Super Bowl 55.
All statistics courtesy of Pro Football Reference.