Another Sunday and another shockingly bad game for the Patriots’ defense

The Patriots couldn’t stop Cam Newton on Sunday. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Late this summer, a New England Patriots official jokingly asserted that the franchise’s biggest problem during training camp was handling so many questions about whether they would go undefeated.

The defending champions were not only a favorite to repeat, they were on a different plane than the rest of the NFL, a franchise with its own gravitational pull. There was the Patriots, and there were the 31 teams chasing them.

A quarter of the way through the season, late summer seems like the distant past for the Patriots. In a span of four games, the central question of their season has shifted in unthinkable fashion. It is not, can they make it through the season without a loss? It is, can they make it through another week without embarrassing themselves?

Embarrassing — there is not another word for New England’s defense after four games. The Patriots are 2-2, tied with the New York Jets and a game behind the Buffalo Bills in the AFC East. They have yielded 32 points per game, more than any team in the NFL, and uniformly turned opposing quarterbacks into all-pros.  

The Patriots have faced Alex Smith, Drew Brees, Deshaun Watson and Cam Newton — two

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