The first two games of the Cam Newton era gave New England Patriots fans reason for optimism. But in his last three starts—particularly since returning from COVID-19—the 31-year-old has struggled mightily to move the chains and put points on the scoreboard.
After spending the first nine years of his NFL career with the Carolina Panthers, Newton just revealed the harsh lesson he’s learned during his brief tenure with the Patriots. But can the former NFL MVP get back on track? Or will he continue to fall short of expectations and force Bill Belichick to make a change at quarterback?
Cam Newton has struggled since returning from COVID-19
Patriots fans wish they could dial back the clock to Cam Newton’s historic debut. Against the Miami Dolphins, the 6-foot-5, 245-pound signal-caller dominated with his legs to the tune of 75 rushing yards and two touchdowns.
Newton followed up with a brilliant passing performance against the Seattle Seahawks. But after throwing for 397 yards in a heartbreaking 35-30 defeat, he has totaled 417 passing yards in his last three starts.
New England’s starting quarterback has also been careless with the football. Newton has thrown six interceptions in his last three games, including a three-pick outing in Sunday’s blowout loss to the San Francisco 49ers.
With their quarterback struggling, the Patriots have been highly ineffective on offense. Belichick’s team ranks 29th in scoring (19.2 points per game). Only the New York Jets, Baltimore Ravens, New York Giants, and Washington Football Team have averaged fewer passing yards per game than the Patriots. That has played a major factor in the team’s uncharacteristic 2-4 start.
Newton reveals the harsh lesson he’s learned with the Patriots
For the last two decades, Patriots fans got a chance to watch Tom Brady run the offense in an efficient manner. The greatest quarterback of all time rarely turned the ball over, which certainly helped New England win a ton of games. However, Cam Newton’s turnover problem has played a significant role in the team’s three-game losing streak.
In speaking with the media, the veteran quarterback revealed the harsh lesson he’s learned with the Patriots during the last couple of weeks. And considering he joined a franchise that’s captured six Super Bowl titles in the last 20 years, the lesson shouldn’t come as a surprise.
“Losing is not acceptable in this locker room, in this county, in this state, in this area, in this region,” Newton explained. “So Cameron Newton, you need to pick your [expletive] up. That’s what I’ve learned.”
Can New England get back on track against the Buffalo Bills?
Given their unprecedented run of success, the Patriots rarely find themselves looking up at other teams in the AFC East. But thanks to their three-game losing streak, they now face a must-win game against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday.
Sean McDermott’s squad sits atop the division with a 5-2 record. However, Buffalo has some issues of its own to work out.
The Bills rank just 20th in scoring (24.9 points per game). Part of that has to do with Josh Allen’s lack of consistency. After starting the season with four dynamite performances, he has experienced some struggles in recent weeks.
In Buffalo’s 42-16 loss to the Tennessee Titans, the third-year quarterback threw two interceptions. In a 26-17 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, Allen threw another pick and totaled just 122 passing yards. Last week, he failed to throw a touchdown and ended up losing a fumble in the Bills’ 18-10 win against the Jets.
If the Patriots want to avoid falling to 2-5, their best bet will be to attack a run defense that has been exposed at times this season. The Chiefs racked up 245 yards on the ground a week after the Titans ran for 139 yards.
New England should make a concerted effort to give Damien Harris plenty of early touches. The promising second-year running back has shown flashes of big-play potential. He possesses an intriguing combination of speed, strength, and tackle-breaking ability that could be the boost the Patriots’ offense desperately needs.
Ultimately, though, the Patriots need Cam Newton to make at least a few plays in the passing game. But with Julian Edelman unavailable, that may be difficult.
Let’s see if Newton rises to the occasion or plays himself out of a job against the No. 1 team in the AFC East.
All statistics courtesy of Pro Football Reference.