After a long off-season of speculation, roster turnover, and doubt, New England Patriots fans were greeted with a wonderful surprise in Week One of the NFL season: Cam Newton.
Newton was able to step into the role of signal caller for the Patriots with extreme confidence, and that confidence was backed up by his play versus the Dolphins. Word out of camp all summer has been that Cam was working his balls off to get the Patriots offensive system down, and that hard work translated directly to his play on Sunday. Newton finished the game 15/19 passing with 155 yards, but Newton’s money was made using his legs, going for 75 yards (6th all time for rushing yards in a game by a Patriot QB) and two scores. Newton seemingly was making all the correct throws in his first outing in the Josh McDaniels offense, but the work he did with his legs was a new aspect that the Patriots haven’t been able to incorporate into their offense since the days of Steve Grogan. Although Newton’s movement from inside the pocket is clearly lesser than Brady’s, Newton being able to scamper for quick ten yard runs when the coverage is good downfield is a huge change compared to just throwing the ball away as Brady would commonly do. Belichick and McDaniels have been dying to get their hands on a mobile quarterback to use in their offense for years now, and it seems they found the perfect fit in Newton.
What may be the biggest surprise coming out of the game Sunday was the play of the defense coming from New England. The Patriot’s secondary returned a lot of notable players from last year, and proved that they are going to be a problem for opposing offenses again this season. The secondary totaled three interceptions, including one from the 2019 DPOY Stephon Gilmore. The surprise outing came from Adrian Phillips, who led the team with nine total tackles and also had an interception against Fitpatrick. Phillips seemed to be everywhere on the field against the Dolphins, helping step up in the role left by Patrick Chung who opted out of playing this season. The defensive line and the linebacking core also did a good job on Sunday, holding the Dolphins to 87 yards rushing while also adding five tackles for loss and two sacks. The linebacker position was the one that saw the most turnover for the Patriots in the off-season, so seeing them perform well in the first week is a reassuring feeling, granted it being against the Dolphins offense. I won’t declare the Patriots defense a deadly force just yet, but if they can consistently perform as they did on Sunday then we may be looking at the Boogiemen 2.0.
Looking ahead at the Patriots schedule it is not a very pretty sight. Their next matchup is against the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday Night Football, a good test to see how legit both the Patriots offense and defense will be going forward in the season. The Patriots will have to play the Seahawks, Chiefs, and the 49ers all within the next five weeks, three teams that are proven Super Bowl contenders. That stretch is going to be what makes or breaks this team, with the possibility of coming out looking like a serious Super Bowl contender themselves, or as a team that got exposed as frauds early in the season. Either way, the Patriots have a DOG at quarterback and it feels pretty damn good to have football back in New England.