By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — This is strange.
Normally in New England, it’s Bill Belichick’s team that does all of the little things well. From ball security to catching opponents with too many men on the field to executing on third down to everything else that goes into winning football games, the Patriots have been the gold standard for 20 years.
But not anymore. With a not-at-all-pretty 22-12 loss to the Dolphins on Sunday, the inevitable has finally come true. No playoffs for the Patriots this season.
Most of us saw that coming as far back as a month ago, and it became crystal clear after the loss last week in Los Angeles. But now, it’s official. For the first time since 2008, the NFL postseason won’t involve the Patriots.
After Sunday’s loss, quarterback Cam Newton tried his best to maintain a positive tone, despite the obvious disappointment for himself and for the team. And when asked about that disappointment, Newton incidentally summed up the entirety of the 2020 Patriots season with a succinct and perfect message.
“This whole season has kind of been the tale of just coming up just a tad bit short,” Newton said. “Call it however you want to do, we’ve still got guys that are new to this system, we’ve still got guys that are young, we’ve still got guys that just don’t get it, and we’ve still got guys that’s battling their tails off each and every week. So we’ve just got to keep building on the optimism of what we can become and just move from there.”
That is just about as simple as it gets.
Whether it’s burning a timeout because the right defense isn’t on the field, or getting out-executed in games’ most critical moments, or fumbling the ball away, or giving up an untimely sack, the Patriots have more often than not found themselves on the losing end of too many plays in 2020. They’ve had a fair amount of highs — like beating Baltimore in the rain, fending off the Cardinals at home, and even the rare “good loss” in Seattle — but they’ve really only worked to make all of the mistakes and execution failures and coaching lapses seem that much more maddening.
Newton — who threw for 209 yards on a day when the Patriots failed to score a touchdown — seemed to feel that way, as he indicated that the Patriots may be at 6-8, but it’s not because they lack the talent to have a better record.
“I mean, what do you want me to do? What do you want me to complain? What do you want me to tell you everything that’s not going right?” Newton said when asked about his positive spin. “I mean, obviously we know what the standard is around here. It doesn’t take a person that is oblivious or has been living under a rock to understand that. But we just came up short. That doesn’t mean we’re not good enough, because we are. We just didn’t show it.”
Newton said that was once again the case with Sunday’s game, when the Patriots held leads of 6-0 and 9-7 before getting outscored 15-3 in the fourth quarter.
“It’s just unfortunate. It’s unfortunate. There’s no need to dwell on what’s the obvious,” Newton said. “There was a lot of good things that happened in the game. We just didn’t do enough. And that’s what it comes down to.”