All things considered, this wasn’t a horrible loss for the Patriots.
That said, there is a lot to consider with how it all went down in New England’s 26-10 loss to Kansas City in a surprise appearance on Monday Night Football.
The fact that the game was played at all remains questionable at best in light of Cam Newton’s positive coronavirus test on Saturday. His replacements, Brian Hoyer and Jarrett Stidham, overshadowed the controversy if only briefly by combining for an abysmal three interceptions on 20 of 37 passing and an abysmal 43.7 rating.
The loss dropped the Patriots to 2-2 on the season, the third time in the last four seasons they've found themselves with such a mark at the quarter pole of the season. Wouldn't you know it, the previous two ended in Super Bowl appearances.
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When it comes to this incarnation of the Patriots, however, it's best to walk before you run.
What's crystal clear after Newton's absence tonight is just how lucky New England is that the 2015 NFL MVP fell into their laps in late June, unwanted by the rest of the NFL.
Hoyer, in his 12th NFL season, has long been hailed as having an intimate knowledge of New England's complex offensive system. That's why he won the backup job for Tom Brady way back in 2009 in the first place as an undrafted free agent, that's why he came back in 2017 to take Jimmy Garoppolo's place, and that's why he was re-signed early in the off-season: to provide some stability in the quarterbacks room.
Instead, Hoyer looked the part of an undrafted rookie at times on Monday, most notably a sequence at the end of the first half. Armed with the ball on the Kansas City 13-yard line with 9 seconds left and no timeouts, Hoyer took a sack as time expired rather than throw the ball away for what would have been a manageable field goal attempt for Nick Folk. The clock promptly ran out, sending New England to the locker room trailing, 6-3.
Things didn't improve for Hoyer to begin the second half. Following a three-and-out on their first series, the Patriots actually moved the ball all the way down to the Chiefs' 5-yard line on a 13-play, 69-yard drive. On the 13th play, however, lost a fumble, costing New England a chance at at least a field goal attempt and spelling the end of his night.
Kansas City promptly scored a touchdown, increasing its lead to 13-3.
If only briefly, Stidham flashed in his first live action of the season after being a healthy scratch in the first three games for the Patriots. He connected with N'Keal Harry on a 5-yard touchdown pass -- the first of his career, as well as Harry's first touchdown reception of the season -- to pull the team back within a field goal.
The Chiefs scored another touchdown to go up 19-10 and promptly picked Stidham off on each of New England's next two offensive sets.
To be fair, Stidham's first pick -- returned for a touchdown by Tyrann Mathieu -- was 100% the fault of Julian Edelman, who watched the ball sail through his hands for an easy score for the Honey Badger.
The next interception was simply a bad throw by Stidham, however, as he overthrew Damiere Byrd to effectively ice the game.
If you're looking for some positives to take away, Damien Harris was brilliant in relief of Sony Michel, who was placed on injured reserve earlier Monday with a quad injury. In his first action of the season, Harris carried the ball 17 times for 100 yards.
Gunner Olszewski also made his 2020 debut for the Patriots, catching one pass for 11 yards.
James White made his return for the Patriots following the death of his father two weeks ago, catching seven passes for 38 yards and adding 21 more yards on the ground.
Pending more negative coronavirus tests, New England returns home Sunday to take on the Denver Broncos at 4:25 p.m. If he's asymptomatic, Cam Newton will be eligible to return to the team on Thursday, so long as he tests negative on consecutive days.