BOSTON (CBS) — Cam Newton returned for the Patriots on Sunday, though the quarterback and the rest of the New England offense didn’t have much success doing anything in an 18-12 loss to the Denver Broncos.
Newton did make some critical throws down the stretch and also picked up some big gains with his legs, scoring yet another rushing touchdown, but the Patriots’ comeback bid was too little, too late. And leading up to that point, it wasn’t a pretty performance from the Patriots offense, which turned the ball over three times in the loss.
With a makeshift offensive line and receivers who weren’t able to get open for much of the afternoon, Newton struggled to get into any kind of rhythm in his first game since Sept. 27. Many of his early throws had very little zip on them, and he never seemed comfortable in the pocket. Newton completed 17 of his 25 passes for 157 yards, but two of those throws were picked off after they were tipped at the line of scrimmage.
“No matter what the sputtering was on offense, the defense gave us an opportunity by holding them to field goals. That’s all we can ask for as an offense, but we let this slip away by our lackluster performance of taking care of the football,” Newton said after the loss.
“Turnovers, those are drive killers and game killers. It starts with me and I’m frustrated by my performance,” he added. “I didn’t get the job done today so you can imagine how I feel. But I don’t want this to be a pity party. We have another opportunity coming up, we have to follow this up with a great week of practice and I look forward to it.”
Despite the turnovers, the Patriots still had a shot to win it in the end. But Newton’s fourth-down pass to N’Keal Harry fell incomplete as Newton threw it to the outside of the receiver, who did not break to the outside. Newton said it was not a miscommunication between himself and Harry, just another instance of the Patriots offense failing to convert when it had to.
Newton also ran for 76 yards on 10 carries and scored the only touchdown of the game in the fourth quarter — his fifth rushing score of the season. But he showed off very little pocket awareness in a first-half sack by Anthony Chickillo, a drive that ended with a Patriots punt. That sack also cost the team starting right tackle Jermaine Eluemunor, who had his ankle rolled on at the end of the play. That injury forced a patchwork offensive line to apply even more duct tape to hold itself together.
The Patriots are now 2-3, under .500 in October for the first time since 2002. Newton said there is no panic in the locker room, but he did admit that they need to have a lot more urgency when they take the field against the San Francisco 49ers next Sunday.
“There is no need to panic, but we for sure have an opportunity here that we cannot allow ourselves to go through the motions and expect us being who we are is going to take care of itself. That is not the case and we are not as good at this particular point,” the quarterback said after Sunday’s loss.
As for coming back after a two-week layoff, Newton said he certainly felt a bit rusty when the game kicked off. The quarterback tested positive for COVID-19 two weeks ago but was activated off the reserve/COVID-19 list earlier this week. He participated in the team’s only practice of the week on Thursday, before the Patriots decided to cancel Friday’s practice session after another positive test by a player.
Newton did not want to discuss his positive test, hoping to put his bout with COVID in the past.
“Honestly, for me right now, I’m trying to move forward. Respectfully, that was two weeks ago. I’m still bitter over the game and just trying to focus on ways to get better. Everyone knows what the situation was and it is what it is. I know for me, moving forward, I have to play better football,” he said.
“Respectfully, for the sake of where we are right now, I don’t think it’s beneficial for me to speak on that. The performance today, the time off showed. But I have to be better and I will be better,” he said.
Newton is hoping the team will have a regular week of practice, but if COVID changes their plans again, the QB said the team has to do the best they can with whatever situation comes their way.
“Whatever the situation is, we’re not the only team facing it and we have to be ready to go moving forward,” said Newton.