New England Patriots gave one of their worst performances of the Bill Belichick era in Sunday's Week 7 loss to the San Francisco 49ers at Gillette Stadium.
The Patriots couldn't generate much offense with just 241 total yards, an 1-for-6 mark on third down and zero touchdowns scored. The defense couldn't stop the 49ers rushing attack, giving up 197 yards on 37 attempts (5.3 per carry). New England also lost the turnover battle 4-2.
It all added up to a 33-6 defeat that dropped the Patriots to 2-4 and maintained their spot in third place in the AFC East standings.
Let's look at four instant overreactions from the Patriots' loss to the 49ers and assess their merit.
1. Patriots should be sellers at the trade deadline
Verdict: Not an overreaction
The Patriots are not a legitimate AFC contender in 2020. It's looking increasingly likely that their playoff appearance streak will end at 11 seasons pretty soon.
The NFL trade deadline is set for Nov. 3, which is less than two weeks away. New England has a long list of needs to address, including wide receiver, tight end, offensive line depth and more.
Wide receiver is probably the biggest weakness on this roster, but is it really worth giving up draft picks to acquire a veteran who's unlikely to be a real difference maker? Most of the wide receivers who've come up in trade rumors/speculation of late -- Marvin Jones, John Ross, Kenny Stills, Dede Westbrook, A.J. Green, etc. -- are either past their prime, free agents at the end of the year, players with a history of injuries or young players who've failed to meet expectations.
The Patriots gave up a second-round pick to acquire Mohamed Sanu before last year's trade deadline. It didn't work out, but the move made sense at the time because the Pats were undefeated and looked like a Super Bowl contender.
They aren't a threat in 2020, so it doesn't make sense to sacrifice valuable draft capital to improve a team with no shot at winning the Lombardi Trophy. The Patriots would be better off selling and looking to acquire draft picks in exchange for veteran players who could help true contenders.
2. Julian Edelman's lack of production is very concerning
Verdict: Not an overreaction
The Patriots don't have enough talent and depth at wide receiver, and it doesn't help that their best player at the position is having a poor season. Edelman didn't catch a pass Sunday until late in the fourth quarter. He's now tallied just eight receptions for 79 yards and zero touchdowns in the last four games.
The 34-year-old wideout has been on the injury report throughout the season, and he's clearly less than 100 percent. The Patriots passing attack, as currently constituted, isn't going to be effective when its most reliable target fails to make any sort of impact.
3. Jarrett Stidham should start in Week 8
Cam Newton played terribly versus the 49ers. His first half stat line was particularly brutal:
The veteran quarterback was throwing passes into the ground, he was overthrowing wide receivers and he was intercepted three times. It was just an all-around bad performance. Newton finished with 98 passing yards, zero touchdowns and three interceptions before being replaced by Stidham in the fourth quarter.
That said, Newton should get one more chance as the starting quarterback. Giving up on him after seven weeks is a little too early. If the Patriots lose to the Buffalo Bills next week and fall 3.5 games behind first place in the AFC East, then you can have the debate over whether to bench Newton. He's still the quarterback that gives this team the best chance to win, especially with his ability to pick up chunks of yards on the ground.
Jarrett Stidham saw action in Week 4 against the Kansas City Chiefs and completed just five of his 13 pass attempts for 60 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. He was intercepted on his first drive Sunday, too. There's no reason to assume Stidham will fare much better than Newton when the Patriots have no wide receivers or tight ends capable of consistently getting open.
The counterargument is the Patriots need to see what they have in Stidham. They can do that later in the season when/if making the playoffs becomes unrealistic.
4. The Patriots won't win the AFC East
Verdict: Slight overreaction
The Patriots aren't playing well and have lost three straight games for the first time since 2002. However, their schedule does give them a chance, albeit a small one, to still make a push for the AFC East crown.
New England still has five more division games remaining -- two versus the Bills, two versus the Jets and one against the Dolphins. The Bills are not an elite team and struggled to beat the winless Jets on Sunday. Buffalo also has lost two of its last three games. Miami is 3-3 and turning to a rookie quarterback to lead the offense. The 2020 Jets are one of the worst teams in recent memory.
Other non-division games that are winnable include Week 11 versus the 1-5 Texans, Week 13 against the 1-4 Chargers and Week 14 versus a Rams squad whose four wins are all against the putrid NFC East.
It's unlikely the Patriots win the AFC East for the 12th consecutive season, but it's not an impossible task, either, given their remaining schedule.