This is completely foreign territory for Patriots fans in more ways than one.
Sunday's embarrassing 33-6 loss to the 49ers was the worst home loss in Bill Belichick's tenure.
They've scored 28 points in three games, and haven't had this much offensive futility in three straight games in the same year since Scott Zolak was backing up a young Drew Bledsoe in 1995.
The Patriots' defense only forced six third downs in the first three quarters as the 49ers had three straight touchdown drives — besides an end-of-the-half possession.
The Patriots are 2.5 games behind the Bills in the AFC East — their worst mark this late since Belichick's first season in 2000.
The Patriots were completely and utterly inept. New England sports fans are very patient and completely rational, so naturally they are up for bailing on this season, questioning Belichick's genius bonafides, trading everything that's not bolted down inside One Patriot Place and building for the future.
There is anger. There is disbelief. There is embarrassment.
And, of course, seeing Tom Brady throw four touchdowns on Sunday to boost the Bucs to a 5-2 record — he now has 18 TDs vs. 4 INTs, while the Patriots have 3 TDs and 11 INTs (the worst marks in the league) — pours a commercial-sized bag of salt on this festering wound.
All of that is valid and factual.
But here's the thing, and it's also an indisputable fact: If the Patriots somehow get this jalopy moving in the right direction and defeat the Bills in Buffalo on Sunday, none of what has transpired will matter.
A win in Buffalo would still mean:
- The Patriots' are the Bills' daddy;
- Sean McDermott continues to lose his mind when Belichick is on the other sideline;
- Josh Allen continues to channel his inner Brian Hoyer at the worst times;
- And, more importantly, it would mean the Patriots would be one game in the loss column behind the Bills with a home rematch in Week 16 looming — and still have everything to play for in a wide-open AFC.
Don't believe me? Hoyer nearly joined Derek Carr in beating the Chiefs in Kansas City. And the Ravens nearly lost to the Eagles. Anything is possible.
Now, do I have any faith the Patriots and their 9.3-points-per-game Slowest Show On Turf offense are going to go into Buffalo and grab a victory that totally changes the outlook for this season? No, and you'd have to have some pretty thick Patriots-colored glasses to actually believe that either. But stranger things have happened.
That will only happen if Josh McDaniels and Jedd Fisch can quickly discover the Fortress of Solitude for Superman, Cam Newton. Because right now he's playing more like Clark Kent on a bender. Newton, despite getting to actually practice this week, is completely on another planet when it comes to executing this Patriots offense.
"I wasn't good enough," Newton said after he completed 9 of 15 passes for 98 yards and three interceptions before being lifted for Jarrett Stidham. "In no way shape or form did I put this team in a position to compete, and that's inexcusable. This is the National Football League where a lot is put on the quarterback and I have to deliver and I haven't done that. Quite frankly, it's evident. So here moving forward I know what the issue is, like I just said, and I just have to be better."
Don't believe the hype about this being some sort of physical issue that only came up since Newton had Covid-19. All of these issues surfaced in the win over the Raiders a very long time ago.
And they continued on Sunday. A look at some of them from the first half alone: