By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) — In his two games after his coronavirus-related absence — and really in his game prior to testing positive for the virus — Cam Newton was a substandard passer. And that’s putting it lightly.

READ MORE: Massachusetts Companies Starting To Announce Vaccination Requirements For Employees

Over the course of three games, he averaged 6.1 yards per passing attempt while throwing one touchdown and six interceptions. For a veteran quarterback trying to prove his NFL worth, that sloppy play simply wasn’t going to lead to much more opportunities — both this season and beyond.

But now, after leading the Patriots on a last-minute, game-winning drive over the Jets, Newton looks a lot more like the passer who started the year with extreme efficiency.

And after Monday night’s 30-27 win, Newton was asked what’s changed that has allowed him to be a much more crisp passer in the past two weeks.

His answer was memorable.

“I’m getting tired of sucking,” Newton said. “Simple.”

Newton certainly didn’t suck against the Jets — though the opposing defense be guilty of such a charge. While the winless Jets did enter the game with one of the NFL’s worst defenses, Newton was nevertheless sharp. He completed over 77 percent of his 35 passes for 274 yards, averaging 7.8 yards per attempt. He also rushed for two touchdowns and picked up three first downs with QB sneaks.

While last week’s fumble in Buffalo soured what was an otherwise positive performance, his work in leading the game-winning drive on national TV will surely go a long way in adding confidence for Newton and the entire offense.

“As a competitor, you know what your standard is, and taking pride in your work. That’s what it comes down to. And you not being able to hold your head up because you’re thinking too much, that’s one thing. But at the same time, you’re solely responsible for the performance that you put up, and I was extremely disappointed. And, this is not like — I just did my job today. And that’s what it’s supposed to be each and every week.”

Newton wasn’t perfect. Notably, he missed a streaking Jakobi Meyers on a play that could have gone for a 72-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter, and he took a sack (negated by a penalty) while having no idea that a blitzing safety was charging at his face.

Cam Newton celebrates his fourth-quarter game-tying touchdown against the Jets. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

But with the game on the line, Newton threw an incompletion to save a timeout and then completed three key passes and picked up a first down on a QB sneak in the drive that ended with Nick Folk’s game-winning 51-yard field goal. It had the Patriots fired up — and also inspired a whole lot of exclamation points from LeBron James, who clearly enjoyed the show.

“I had a couple mistakes tonight that I learned from and [will] get better from,” Newton said. “But yet at the end of the day, this offense thrives when we just keep pressure on the defense throughout — when we’re running or passing, short passes as well as deep passes, and we just got to get better from them.”

The difference this week compared to last week, of course, was that the final scoreboard proved the Patriots to be winners. While a 3-5 record and a narrow win over the Jets is hardly reason for a parade down Tremont Street, Newton built upon the positives of the Buffalo game while leading the Patriots to a sorely needed victory.

MORE NEWS: AG Healey Sues Grubhub For Allegedly Charging Restaurants Illegally High Fees During Pandemic

“I’m more relieved not having the feeling of losing,” Newton replied when asked if he felt happy about winning or relieved to not lose. “Because there’s a lot of people in a locker room that deserve more than what we have been showing. And a lot of our fans have been let down with the lackluster performances of myself — amongst other people, but I only can speak for myself and I will. But yet, this is a game that we can build off of, and we will build off of it. And that’s the good thing.”