Patriots stumble against Broncos, fall to losing record after five games for first time since 2002

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The Patriots had their excuses.

The team practiced once in the last two weeks as the Pats had eight players land on the COVID-19/Reserve list. This happened after the NFL postponed the team's matchup with the Denver Broncos for a week. The little on-field preparation led to a sloppy Sunday afternoon game in Gillette Stadium.

Cam Newton returned after missing the team’s loss in Kansas City. For most of the game, he looked like a quarterback that hadn’t played in three weeks. Overall, the Patriots looked like a team with one full practice. 

Newton and the offense made one late charge. Although it looked like a comeback might happen, the Pats fell short losing, 18-12, on Sunday to the Denver Broncos. The Pats fall to 2-3 and are under .500 in October for the first time since 2002.

The most promising part of this game happened at the end of the fourth quarter.

J.C. Jackson stepped up with an interception of a Drew Lock pass with 5:25 left in the game. The play came on a Denver third down and set up the offense 25 yards from the end zone. The Patriots turned that into a 38-yard Nick Folk field goal and Denver led, 18-12, with 3:32 left in the game.

On the next Denver play, Jonathan Jones intercepted Lock on a deep pass intended for Tim Patrick with 3:32 remaining. The Patriots offense took over at the 28-yard line to give them one shot at a comeback.

Julian Edelman got the team to midfield as he caught a lateral from Newton and then threw it to James White for a 23-yard gain. With 2:01 left, the Patriots faced a fourth-and-1. Newton kept the drive alive with a 4-yard quarterback keeper. Two plays later, Edelman completed his second pass of the drive. This time, with 1:27 left, the receiver hit Newton for a 16-yard gain to put the Pats at the 24-yard line.

With 1:14 left, Newton was sacked by Malik Reed to set up a third-and-16. The quarterback hit White on the next play for a gain of six to the 24-yard line. The Pats faced a fourth-and-10 with 1:03 left on the clock. Newton’s next pass intended for N’Keal Harry, came up short as it fell incomplete.

Newton finished 17-for-25 for 157 yards with two interceptions to go with a rushing touchdown.

The Broncos, meanwhile, scored on their first five drives of the game and wouldn’t punt until 14:10 of the fourth quarter.

The Patriots offense didn’t get off to a great start. The team started with a revamped offensive line of Justin Herron (left tackle), Isaiah Wynn (left guard), Joe Thuney (center), Michael Onwenu (right guard) and Jermaine Eluemunor (right tackle).

The group was unable to block Broncos defensive end Shelby Harris on third down at 9:38 of the first quarter, and he was able to get a hand on Newton’s pass, which was intended for White. When the ball popped up in the air, defensive lineman DeShawn Williams made a diving interception. The turnover led to the second of six Brandon McManus field goals.

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