Against the 49ers Sunday, Patriots quarterback Cam Newton did not throw a single pass to the right side of the field. All 15 of his attempts were to the left side.
Against the Broncos in Week 6, only 3 of Newton’s 25 attempts went to the right — and one resulted in an interception.
Newton has said multiple times this season that he feels fine physically. Neither his right shoulder, the one that underwent an arthroscopic procedure in January 2019, nor his left foot, the one that underwent surgery in December 2019 for a Lisfranc injury, have popped up on the injury report this season.
After the blowout loss to the 49ers, Newton also shut down the notion that his performance woes are related to mechanics.
If that’s the case, then why hasn’t he been throwing the ball to the right?
Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said Tuesday morning that the coaching staff is aware of the statistics, but called the recent pass distribution more coincidental than intentional.
“There’s certainly no intent on just putting the ball in a certain spot on the field,” McDaniels said. “I think the most important thing is to do the right thing based on the team you’re playing and the matchups you have, and we’ll see how that all plays out this week.”
Quarterbacks coach Jedd Fisch didn’t seem concerned about the trend, either.
“I think that has really just been the way the plays have developed,” Fisch said. “There’s guys on both sides of the field that are part of each play, and we’re not really cutting half the field off.
"I think it’s more than anything just the way the last couple of weeks have worked themselves out — where the balls have landed, where the throws have gone, where he’s maybe had to get out of the pocket. I think that just happens to be coincidence than circumstance.”
Still, the discrepancy has been apparent.
On the season, the majority of New England’s passing plays have resulted in short gains on the left side. Passing plays to the left, in general, have been more successful, with both a higher completion percentage and a longer average gain than those to the right.
Asked if there’s anything specific causing Newton not to look to the right, coach Bill Belichick said the quarterback’s reads are dictated by the routes and coverage on the play. Any favoring of one side over the other is not by design, he said.
“It’s not that frequent that you know exactly where the ball is going to go, unless it’s a screen pass or something like that,” Belichick said.
Belichick also dispelled the idea that Newton’s production has slipped because he is still recovering from the coronavirus.
“We would have listed it on the injury report if there was," said the coach. “But I don’t think he’s had any symptoms the whole way.”
According to a review conducted by neurologists at Columbia University’s Irving Medical Center, patients who have tested positive for the virus, even those with mild symptoms, can experience lingering neurological issues.
“In our clinics and in case reports worldwide, patients report fatigue, inattention, poor concentration, difficulty working long hours, difficulty getting out of bed, a ‘brain fog,’ ” said Anna Nordvig, one of the neurologists who conducted the review.
“Some also have more specific thinking and behavior problems: They forget the names of people they know well, they can’t follow along during business conversations, prioritizing, and planning is suddenly difficult, they are inexplicably anxious and sleep poorly.”
During his weekly radio interview on WEEI Monday, Newton was asked about the potential “brain fog” and immediately dismissed that possibility.
The Patriots are slated to have a full week of practice ahead of Sunday’s divisional showdown in Buffalo. McDaniels expressed confidence in both Newton and the offense’s ability to respond following three consecutive losses.
“Certainly, nobody is happy,” McDaniels said. “We’re going to work as hard as we can to try and make improvements every day in practice. I know Cam will. He’s dedicated to doing that. I know our whole group is.
"Nobody’s content with what we’ve been able to do recently, and we know we have to make a lot of progress quickly and we’ll be hard at work doing that this week.”
Nicole Yang can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.