FOXBOROUGH — Patriots quarterback Cam Newton had no excuses following a woeful performance against the San Francisco 49ers Sunday afternoon.
“I wasn’t good enough,” Newton said. “In no way, shape, or form did I put this team in a position to compete. That’s inexcusable. This is the National Football League, where a lot is put on the quarterback, and I have to deliver. I haven’t done that. Quite frankly, it’s evident.”
Newton couldn’t establish any rhythm against the 49ers, throwing three interceptions and registering a career-low 98 passing yards. Coach Bill Belichick pulled the plug after Newton’s third pick, an errant pass that was tipped by wide receiver Julian Edelman. Backup Jarrett Stidham took over in the fourth quarter and finished out the team’s final two drives.
Sunday’s 33-6 defeat marked the second straight dud for Newton, who also struggled last week against the Denver Broncos. His throws were not sharp — one bounced into the ground en route to its intended target — and he also seemed tentative when presented with open lanes to run the ball himself.
With five interceptions and no touchdowns over the past two games, Newton called his decision-making “the most frustrating thing.”
Asked specifically about his second pick, a 50-plus-yard hurl that sailed over a fallen Jakobi Meyers, Newton took a moment to recall the play — and expressed disappointment that he had to do so. The sore spots were clearly aplenty.
“That’s sad when you have to think about it,” Newton said.
No drive of Newton’s featured more than eight plays, nor did any of his drives move the ball more than 50 yards. He finished with a passer rating of 39.7, the third-worst of his career.
Is Newton healthy? Yes, he says.
Then, what gives?
“I’ve just been pressing,” he said. "I don’t think it’s anything with mechanics. It’s seeing the situation at hand and I caught myself just pressing too much.
“The energy has definitely been off for me and, at times, it’s not rewarding when you’re just going out there with this aura about yourself that’s not you. I love playing this football game. I have fun playing this football game, but the performances here haven’t been delightful for me to have fun in doing so.”
Belichick declined to go into detail about Newton’s performance, deferring to generalities.
“We were clearly out-coached, out-played in just about everything,” Belichick said. “We need to just keep working here and find a way just to do everything better.”
Despite the recent struggles, there will be no quarterback controversy. Belichick made it clear after the loss that Newton “absolutely” will still be the team’s starting quarterback. The decision to put Stidham in the game, Belichick said, was to give the 2019 fourth-round draft pick “a little experience.”
After being inactive for New England’s first three games, Stidham officially earned the backup role following the team’s Week 4 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. With Newton sidelined because of coronavirus, Brian Hoyer got the start but was benched in favor of Stidham in the third quarter. Hoyer has since been inactive.
On Sunday, Stidham’s two drives seemed equally as trying as Newton’s. His first ended with an interception on a pass intended for Edelman. The pick — Stidham’s second of the season — came four plays after he tripped over his center’s foot trying to hand the ball off to running back Damien Harris.
Stidham did manage to string together 11 plays to close out the game, bringing the ball to San Francisco’s 27-yard line before getting sacked and running out the clock.
Asked if he’s frustrated that his only opportunities come when he’s unexpectedly thrust into games, Stidham didn’t let on if he’s bothered.
“From my standpoint, I prepare each week like I’m the guy,” he said. “I always prepare like I am the guy. I can’t control those types of things. I can control my effort, my attitude, how prepared I am for the game, and how ready I am for the game. That’s what I’m going to continue to do.”
After being elevated to the No. 2 spot, Stidham said his practices haven’t changed dramatically, although he occasionally logs more reps with the starters. His approach, he said, stays the same regardless of where he stands on the depth chart.
Stidham noted Newton has been supportive both when he’s on the field and on the bench.
“I’ve learned a lot from him this year,” Stidham said. “Even when I went in, he came over to me and kind of dapped me up and gave me words of encouragement.”
Sunday’s beatdown dropped the Patriots to 2-4, marking the first time the team is multiple games under .500 since 2001.
So, what’s next?
Newton said the team is looking forward to resetting on Monday. It’s time to go back to the basics: Review the film and practice fundamentals.
“One thing that can’t happen is I can’t let myself feel sorry for myself,” Newton said. “I know what the issue is. You just have to attack it and do better.”
And what exactly is that issue?
“Me not playing good.”
Nicole Yang can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.