It doesn’t sound as if Jarrett Stidham will be getting game reps any time soon.
Starting quarterback Cam Newton threw for a season-low 84 yards Sunday afternoon against the Cardinals, but Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said Tuesday he “absolutely” has full confidence in Newton’s ability as a passer.
“The passing game is a function of a lot of people doing things right,” McDaniels said. “I know the quarterback is the centerpiece of throwing the football, but they don’t throw the ball well without everybody doing their job right.”
Newton’s performance this season has been inconsistent, with Sunday representing one of his worst outings of the year. In the 20-17 win, Newton threw two interceptions, completed 9 of 18 pass attempts, and was sacked three times. His passer rating of 23.6 was the lowest of his 10-year career.
After the game, Newton was seen apologizing to McDaniels.
“You’re talking to a person who is not oblivious to the way that I played,” Newton said Monday during his weekly radio interview. “It’s unacceptable.”
On Tuesday, McDaniels defended Newton by stressing the passing game is a group effort, from pass protections to crisp route-running to blitz pickups — and not solely a reflection of Newton’s arm or accuracy. McDaniels assumed part of the blame, feeling he has to do a better job of putting players in positions to succeed.
“Passing the football well has never been a one-man job,” McDaniels said. “It will never be that way. We have to do a good job of executing as a group.”
For example, after the game running back James White said he was responsible for Arizona’s first touchdown. On New England’s third play of the game, Cardinals linebacker Jordan Hicks interrupted Newton’s pass, sending the ball flailing in the air and into the arms of Cardinals linebacker Markus Golden. The interception gave Arizona a short field and led to a touchdown three plays later.
“That was on me,” White said.
Throughout the season, McDaniels has been extremely generous when dishing out praise for Newton. On Tuesday, he once again gushed about working with Newton, commending his listening skills and coachability.
“I think he’s also matured,” McDaniels said. “He works extremely hard to put himself in position to be prepared to play the best he can play. That’s what his focus is usually on all week long.
“He doesn’t look back. It’s impossible to do that in this league. If you’re looking in the back two, three, four, six weeks whatever it is, it’s hard to continue to move forward and make progress.”
Newton has started all 10 games he’s been available for this season, missing only the Week 4 trip to Kansas City while COVID-IR list. Veteran Brian Hoyer got the start that week but has since been relegated to third string.
Stidham, now the backup, took over for Hoyer in the fourth quarter against the Chiefs and has seen the field on just one other occasion, the Week 7 blowout loss to the 49ers. Between the two appearances, Stidham has thrown three interceptions and completed 11 of 23 pass attempts (47.8 percent).
Asked Sunday if he would consider turning to Stidham, coach Bill Belichick didn’t answer definitively but was quick to offer a reminder that Newton tallied 365 passing yards against the Texans the week before. That win is one of the three games in which Newton has exceeded 200 passing yards this season, joining the Week 9 victory over the Jets (274) and the Week 2 thriller against the Seahawks (397).
“We just kind of keep working to get better,” Belichick said. “The most important thing is we made the plays we needed to make to win. That’s what the goal will be every week.”
Regardless of Newton’s individual numbers, the most important thing to both him and the coaching staff is the final score.
“The best part about Cam Newton is the only statistic he cares about is the one in the win column,” McDaniels said.
Season of giving
Multiple Patriots were recognized by the NFL Players Association for their community involvement over the Thanksgiving weekend. Special teams standout Justin Bethel and his Beating All Odds Foundation donated 1,400 turkeys and 40,000 pounds of fresh food to a Lawrence community, defensive tackle Lawrence Guy fed more than 3,000 locals with his 10th annual Thanksgiving Giveaway, and practice squad cornerback Michael Jackson hosted a turkey drive through his Rising Above Your Current Environment Foundation.