Week 7 marked what may have been one of the worst games since the '90s for the New England Patriots.
The Patriots lost to the San Francisco 49ers 33-6. And while the defense didn't do any favors by allowing Jimmy Garoppolo and the 49ers offense to march up and down the field at will, what seemed to be the centerpiece of the disaster in Foxboro Sunday afternoon was quarterback Cam Newton.
Newton easily had his worst game to-date in a Patriots uniform. He completed 9-of-15 passes for 98 yards and three interceptions. His last interception came late in the third quarter on yet another poor decision by the former MVP, and it was a decision that caused New England's coaching staff to bench Newton in favor of second-year quarterback Jarrett Stidham. Stidham didn't do that much better under center, completing 6-of-10 passes for 64 yards and an interception.
However, despite being benched, the Patriots still view Newton as their starting quarterback moving forward.
"Absolutely," head coach Bill Belichick said after the game when asked if Newton would be the starter moving forward. "Just wanted to give Stidham [Jarrett Stidham] a little experience here."
But just because Newton is still the starter heading into Week 8 doesn't mean he won't be on a short leash.
Through five games, Newton has a total of seven touchdowns (two passing, five rushing) and eight turnovers, seven of which have come through the air. Six of those turnovers have come over the last two games.
To be fair, Newton had an excuse for his poor play in Week 7 against the Denver Broncos. After a mini COVID-19 outbreak in New England which started with Newton, the Patriots practiced only twice over a two-week period prior to their game against Denver, which is in large part why the six-time Super Bowl champions struggled mightily in their loss to the banged-up Denver squad.
But there was no excuse for Newton's play in Week 8.
With a normal week of practice under his belt (and by normal I mean as normal as can be during a pandemic), Newton did not look like Superman against San Francisco. With receivers open downfield and with time in the pocket, Newton's decision making was sub-par, which brought offensive drives to a screeching halt time and time again.
"I can't speak for everybody. I just stick to the man in the mirror and I wasn't good enough," Newton told the media after the game. "I didn't -- in no way shape or form did I put this team in a position to compete, and that's inexcusable. This is the National Football League where a lot is put on the quarterback and I have to deliver and I haven't done that. Quite frankly, it's evident. So here moving forward I know what the issue is, like I just said, and I just have to be better."
Newton has to play exponentially better than he did on Sunday if New England plans on stringing together wins moving forward. This Patriots team is stocked with cap space in 2021 and will likely choose to save their 2020 money for next offseason rather than use it this season to acquire talent ahead of the trade deadline. Besides, adding one or two pieces this year won't solve the many issues they are dealing with at the moment. Because of this, Newton needs to play at a superstar level given the talent around him, specifically in the pass-catching department, where the Patriots have been unproductive through six games.
If Newton wants to keep his job this season while improving his free-agent stock next year, he needs to right his wrongs very, very quickly. Otherwise the Jarrett Stidham-experiment will be underway in Foxboro come November.
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