The New England Patriots looked like a team Sunday that hadn't practiced much in the build up to their Week 6 game against the Denver Broncos.
The Patriots' execution offensively was poor, and with several players along the offensive line playing in new/unfamiliar positions, the team struggled to score points in a 18-12 defeat at Gillette Stadium.
New England had only two on-field practices over the last two weeks to prepare for the Broncos. The team had to close its facilities and cancel practice many times during that span due to positive COVID-19 tests. It was obviously the smart decision, but it no doubt had an impact on Sunday's matchup.
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick stressed the need for more practice time when asked about the offensive line after his team's latest loss.
"Well, it was a big challenge. Playing without guys, getting guys hurt, moving around, had some guys that haven't played together much, hadn't practiced together much," Belichick said. "So, we need to get on the field, we need to practice, we need to develop some continuity as a team, but especially there."
The offensive line was without starting center David Andrews (hand injury), backup center James Ferentz (reserve/COVID-19 list) and starting right guard Shaq Mason (reserve/COVID-19 list). Jermaine Eluemunor started at right tackle but left the game in the first half with an ankle injury and didn't return.
Former All-Pro left guard Joe Thuney was forced to make the switch to center. The offensive line had two rookies start in Justin Herron (left tackle) and Michael Onwenu (right guard). The combination of inexperience and unfamiliar roles was a lot to overcome.
The Patriots offense as a whole failed to impress versus the Broncos. It didn't score a single touchdown and tallied just 288 total yards. Starting quarterback Cam Newton, who was making his first appearance since Week 3 after reportedly testing positive for COVID-19 on Oct. 2, also struggled to make an impact. He threw for 157 yards with zero touchdowns and two interceptions. Newton was sacked a season-high four times, too.
"It's the same for everybody on the team. Nobody's practiced, I mean we all need to do more practice, we need to get our execution levels up a lot higher," Belichick said when asked about Newton's performance.
The Patriots have plenty of film to watch and on-field adjustments to make before hosting the defending NFC champion San Francisco 49ers in Week 7.
"We need to do a better job in all areas of the game," Belichick said. "We need to play better on offense, defense and special teams and coach better and we just, we need to be better on everything."