By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — On Monday morning, Cam Newton made a point of expressing how much he admires and respects Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. Newton said that he’s appreciative of his opportunity in New England and that McDaniels and everyone else involved with the Patriots remains fully committed to winning.
That is, obviously, nice. And it beats the alternative.
Yet despite the strength of the relationship between McDaniels and Newton, the results on the field have been tremendously underwhelming for the Patriots. And that’s putting it as politely as possible.
The raw numbers on the Patriots, with just one game left to be played in Week 14 of the NFL, are grisly.
The Patriots are tied for 27th in points scored. That’s on par with the Eagles and better than only the Jaguars, Broncos, Bengals, Giants and Jets.
The Patriots rank 24th in the NFL in offensive yards, averaging 332.9 per game, and they’re 22nd in yards per play.
They score touchdowns on just 52.3 percent of their trips to the red zone, which is the sixth-worst mark in the NFL. They cash in better than the Bengals, Cowboys, Giants, Falcons and Jets.
Those are the team stats, and they’re obviously an issue for a team with the 11th-ranked defense in terms of yards and seventh in terms of points allowed. With an average of just 14.5 points per game in their seven losses — and an average of just 12 points per game when excluding the 30 points scored in Seattle — it’s not difficult to discover why the Patriots are where they’re at with three weeks to go.
And when looking at some individual rankings in the NFL, the picture darkens even more.
Individually, Cam Newton ranks 25th in passing yards, 19th in yards per attempt, and 35th in touchdown passes. He’s also tied for throwing the eighth-most interceptions, and he ranks 31st in passer rating — better than only Daniel Jones, Carson Wentz, and Sam Darnold. He’s 2,036 yards and 34 touchdowns off the league lead.
Newton is tied for third in the NFL with 11 rushing touchdowns, which is not insignificant at all. Unsurprisingly, the rushing game is the only place where positive individual stats can be found on the Patriots’ offense.
Despite not playing in the team’s first three games, Damien Harris ranks 18th in the NFL in rushing yards. He’s ninth in yards per attempt (5.0) and 11th in yards per game (69.1), proving to be a highly productive NFL back in the first real action of his career.
If you’re looking for receiving stats, though, you’ll have to look elsewhere.
Damiere Byrd is the Patriots’ leading receiver with 566 yards. That puts him at 54th in the NFL in receiving yards.
Next up is Jakobi Meyers, who has 506 yards, ranking him 66th in receiving yards. No other Patriots players rank in the top 100, with Julian Edelman and his 315 yards (and inactivity since Oct. 25) next on the list of Patriots leading receivers.
Rex Burkhead, who suffered a season-ending injury four weeks ago, leads the team with three touchdown receptions, putting him in a tie for 65th in the NFL in that category. N’Keal Harry, with two touchdowns, is the only other Patriots player to catch more than one touchdown; he ranks tied for 99th in the NFL in that category.
None of this is particularly surprising, of course, but it’s still notable in that it represents a significant drop from last year. Though the 2019 Patriots clearly lacked the firepower and cohesion on offensive to make a run at a Lombardi, they still ranked 15th in yards and seventh in points (albeit with a big boost from defensive and special teams TDs).
Tom Brady ranked seventh in passing yards, tied for 13th in passing TDs, and tied for 18th in passer rating. Edelman ranked 18th in the NFL in receiving yards and tied for 24th in receiving touchdowns.
The offense was obviously due to change from 2019 to 2020, after the quarterback of two decades departed and a quarterback with an entirely different skill-set replaced him. The step backward, though, was far too significant for the Patriots, who are set to miss the playoffs for the first time since 2008 and will not be tied for the most wins in the AFC East for the first time since 2000.
What it all means for the future of the involved parties — Cam Newton, Bill Belichick, Josh McDaniels, etc. — won’t be known for some time. For now, the offensive production of the 2020 Patriots can rightfully be categorized as a major disappointment.