Not everyone was on board, but by and large, we decided in the days following the Patriots' Week 2 loss to the Seahawks that we're officially allowing "moral victories" this season.
Given that, you’d think that a game in which a Cam Newton-less Patriots team played the Chiefs tight for nearly three quarters before losing a game they were expected to lose with Newton would be another moral victory, right?
Where the Seahawks game was encouraging, Monday’s loss to the Chiefs was the ultimate let’s-pretend-this-never-happened experience for Patriots fans. The stellar play of the defense was overshadowed by a crushing realization that Cam Newton might truly be the Patriots’ offense, and without him, they’re a mess.
Even missing their best quarterback, the Patriots should have been more than just competitive Monday night. Brian Hoyer took them to the red zone twice in a three-point game and got them zero points.
The second trip, which occurred in the third quarter, ended in a fumble that led to a Chiefs touchdown drive. Then, after Jarrett Stidham came in and led a scoring drive, Julian Edelman tipped a pass into the hands of Tyrann Mathieu for a pick-six.
This wasn't a "they did enough things right and just couldn't keep up" performance. Offensively, all they needed was a pulse. There's no prize to be handed out for being able to run the ball against the Chiefs; anyone can do that.
There is the one obvious silver lining. Given that we've learned Newton is indeed the entire offense, you can argue that if the Patriots have Newton and the defense can do what it did against Patrick Mahomes Monday, maybe they win that game. Or at least they're up at halftime and in control down the stretch, versus shuffling their quarterbacks on the fly.
But Newton has already missed one game due to COVID-19. Historically speaking, we should expect him to miss at least a game due to injury anyway. So where we came away from Week 2 thinking, "hey, they can be pretty formidable with Newton," Monday should tell us how dependent on "with Newton" that statement is.
Meanwhile, the actual victory total is stuck at two for the now-.500 Patriots, who trail the 4-0 Bills in the AFC East. Assuming the Patriots either use the rest of the week to prepare Stidham to start Sunday (or are lucky enough to get Newton back), they should be able to hit the bye week at 3-2 because the Broncos are big trash.
But against real, contending teams? The Patriots successfully kept freaking Patrick Mahomes quiet and still couldn't win.
Monday was the opposite of a moral victory.