When Cam Newton tested positive for COVID-19, it forced the New England Patriots to start Brian Hoyer against the Kansas City Chiefs. Ultimately, that experiment did not end well, as the veteran failed to protect the ball in a 26-10 loss.
Newton returned to the lineup on Sunday. But even with the former league MVP back under center, New England scored just 12 points. Part of that can be blamed on a lack of practice time brought on by more COVID-19 cases.
On Monday, Newton just revealed the truth about his experience with the coronavirus as the Patriots look to work out their issues on offense before they take on the San Francisco 49ers.
COVID-19 continues to be a major challenge for the Patriots
For the Patriots, the 2020 season will go down as perhaps the most unique in the history of the franchise. First, Bill Belichick lost a league-high eight players to the COVID-19 opt-out policy. That forced New England to find replacements for key veterans like Dont’a Hightower, Pat Chung, and Marcus Cannon.
Newton’s positive COVID-19 test represented another major hurdle. With their starting quarterback sidelined, the Patriots mustered just 10 points against the Chiefs on Monday Night Football.
Days later, star cornerback Stephon Gilmore also tested positive. While he ultimately did not miss a game due to the NFL postponing New England’s scheduled Week 5 matchup against the Denver Broncos, Gilmore’s case simply set the stage for more setbacks from COVID-19.
On Friday, New England had to place James Ferentz on the reserve/COVID-19 list. His absence forced the Patriots to reshuffle their offensive line. The Broncos took advantage of a depleted unit and sacked Newton four times in an 18-12 victory.
Cam Newton reveals the truth about his experience with COVID-19
For Cam Newton, dealing with COVID-19 certainly wasn’t part of his plans when he signed with the Patriots. However, the 31-year-old had no choice but to tackle the issue head-on just a few weeks into the season.
After confirming that he still has no idea where he contracted the coronavirus, Newton explained his experience in more detail on Monday’s appearance on The Greg Hill Show on the WEEI radio network.
“I think the biggest scare here for everybody was just my, I guess, daily routine of how many hours I put in the facility. And if I contracted it, if anybody who would have had a red flag, I think it would have been me,” Newton said. “Here’s a person who’s here as long as he is. Who was he around? Who did he touch? Things like that. And I was more concerned about it because I didn’t want to put nobody else on the team in jeopardy for this.”
Of course, Gilmore tested positive just a few days later.
“The fact that Steph [Gilmore] contracted it was my worst nightmare being that I would never want to sabotage anything to the slightest degree because I know what we have the capability of becoming,” Newton said. “And yet, through it all, we saw it and got a better understanding of it.”
Can New England get its offense clicking against San Francisco?
Cam Newton’s return did not lead to any marked improvement for a Patriots offense that now ranks 25th in scoring. That unit will have to figure things out quickly as New England prepares to travel to San Francisco to take on a 49ers squad that currently sits at 3-3.
Although Nick Bosa’s injury represented a devastating blow to their Super Bowl hopes, San Francisco still features plenty of talented players on that side of the ball. Arik Armstead, Fred Warner, and Kwon Alexander headline a stout front seven that has also gotten surprising production out of veteran journeyman Kerry Hyder (3.5 sacks, 11 quarterback hits).
The Patriots need to figure out exactly who can be counted on moving forward. Julian Edelman looks to be on his last legs and has caught only seven passes for 67 yards in his last three games.
Meanwhile, N’Keal Harry continues to look more and more like a draft bust. The 2019 first-rounder has totaled just 18 catches for 166 yards and one touchdown after missing most of his rookie season with an injury. He has to become a more consistent factor if the Patriots have any chance of turning their season around.
Plus, the tight end spot continues to be a wasteland. Rookies Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene have provided nothing in the passing game. Starter Ryan Izzo just doubled his reception total by hauling in three catches on Sunday.
Ultimately, Belichick may need to explore the trade market to find more help at wide receiver and tight end. Newton needs to improve as well, as he held on to the ball too long in Sunday’s defeat.
Can he turn around a Patriots offense that looks even worse than it did in Tom Brady’s final year in Foxborough? Or will the 49ers further expose a unit that lacks explosive playmakers?
All statistics courtesy of Pro Football Reference.