Week 2 takeaways: Cam Newton era in New England off to encouraging start

Jeff Simmons
·6 mins read

New England came one yard short of upsetting the Seattle Seahawks — which is pretty ironic — but looking at the big picture, the Patriots should be encouraged with what they witnessed in their loss Sunday night. The primary reason: Cam Newton.

Newton was comfortable in the pocket, in command, and his accuracy and throwing mechanics were dramatically improved, which has been a shortcoming throughout his career. Statistically, this was apparent, as the Patriots QB was 30-of-44 with 397 yards, three total touchdowns (two rushing) and drove his team down the field with two big drives late in the fourth quarter against the Seahawks. He looked unstoppable at times, as Newton led the NFL in Week 2 with downfield throws over 10-plus yards (15 total), according to Pro Football Focus.

Replacing Tom Brady was always going to be an uphill climb for the Patriots, but there’s a legitimate case to be made that they actually upgraded the position, given the type of personnel they have offensively. That would be an incredible accomplishment.

It is still hard to comprehend how New England was able to acquire a player of this magnitude for basically the league minimum, even with his health concerns, when QB-needy teams paid a premium for a solution. The Indianapolis Colts paid $25 million for Philip Rivers, the Chicago Bears gave away a draft pick and a sizeable chunk of cap space for backup Nick Foles, while Carolina, his former team, is 0-2 with his replacement Teddy Bridgewater making over $20 million. All of those organizations had to be shaking their heads watching the 31-year-old’s performance on Sunday, while Newton clearly made the right call to bet on himself and pair with Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels.

Here are some other takeaways from Week 2:

Russell Wilson, Josh Allen early MVP candidates

MIAMI GARDENS, FLORIDA - SEPTEMBER 20: Josh Allen #17 of the Buffalo Bills celebrates with John Brown #15 after a 46-yard touchdown during the fourth quarter at Hard Rock Stadium on September 20, 2020 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Josh Allen has been money this season. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

As well as Newton played against Seattle, he was the inferior quarterback in the game as Russell Wilson is the best player in the NFL to start the season.

As Arun Srinivasan of Yahoo Sports Canada pointed out last week, the Seahawks have adapted their offense to a more modern philosophy, unlocking the passing game in Seattle. Wilson threw five touchdowns against the stingy Patriots secondary and now leads the league in passer rating and touchdown passes. His 82.5 percent completion percentage is the highest in NFL history through two weeks of a season, which for comparison’s sake is more than 10 points higher than the mark set by Aaron Rodgers — another QB having a fantastic year. Wilson could not have had a better start.

Slightly behind him in terms of top QB play hasn’t been Patrick Mahomes or Lamar Jackson, it’s been Josh Allen, who like Newton, has shown dramatically improved mechanics, footwork and accuracy (completing 70 percent of his passes). On Sunday, he became the first Bills quarterback to throw for 400-plus passing yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions in a game. Allen is usually a source of jokes and memes on social media, but no one is laughing now.

To be fair, Allen has played against lighter competition in the Dolphins and Jets, but that should not take away from his production, as he has back-to-back games of over 300-plus yards and is connecting well with new teammate Stefon Diggs, who looks badly missed in Minnesota. The race between Allen and Newton should be fascinating in the AFC East.

Dan Quinn, Matt Patricia, Adam Gase on the chopping block

Dan Quinn has witnessed some rough losses in his coaching career — Super Bowl 49 at the goal line with Seattle and the 28-3 blown lead in Super Bowl 51 — and Sunday’s meltdown by the Falcons has to rank up right there. The Falcons became the first team since 1933 to lose a game despite scoring 39 points and having 0 turnovers.

Atlanta blew a nine point lead with just over 2:30 left in the fourth quarter against Dallas, where at that point their win probability was 99.9 percent.

The Falcons not only fell apart on defense, but did not appear to understand the onside kick rules when none of their players touched the ball and Dallas was able to recover to get into scoring position for the winning field goal, which is another inexcusable coaching mistake for a team that appears headed to no-man's land. Quinn needed a turnaround to save his job after a down season, and that does not appear to be happening, despite another strong performance from his offense.

Elsewhere, the Jets are a total mess with the worst coach in football. They have the roster of an expansion team and were crushed at home by San Francisco’s backups, while the Lions coughed up a double-digit lead for the second week in a row and are now setting new measures of ineptitude. Both teams need to consider midseason firings to give their quarterbacks a chance.

49ers hit hard by injuries

Fantasy football owners everywhere had to be shaking their heads in Week 2, which must have had a record-high of big-name players going down with injuries. Saquon Barkley tore his ACL, Christian McCaffrey injured his ankle, but no team was hit harder than last year’s NFC champions.

Already without franchise building blocks George Kittle and Richard Sherman, the 49ers lost star defensive end Nick Bosa to a torn ACL, while former first-round pick Solomon Thomas was carted off with knee injury, emerging RB Raheem Mostert injured his MCL (out a few weeks) and even QB Jimmy Garoppolo was unable to finish the game after suffering a high-ankle sprain. All in one game.

It’s hard to imagine how San Francisco can sustain all those injuries in a hellscape of a division that includes Seattle, the Arizona Cardinals and Los Angeles Rams, who are a combined 6-0 to start the season.

This will be the toughest challenge of Kyle Shanahan’s career.

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