By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Ever since Mac Jones was drafted in April, Bill Belichick has made it clear that Cam Newton is still the Patriots’ starting quarterback. That organizational philosophy has carried through OTAs, minicamp, training camp, and the preseason.
So it wasn’t surprising that Cam Newton trotted onto the field as the Patriots’ starting quarterback on Sunday. But it was nevertheless notable that the veteran QB was given all three preseason starts for New England this summer — including this one, which came after Newton had to miss five days of work due to violating the NFL’s COVID protocols last week.
It stands to reason that No. 1 will be QB1 when the season kicks off on Sept. 12.
Bill Belichick was asked after the game — a 22-20 win to cap off a 3-0 preseason for New England — if he’s made a decision on the starter. As expected, Belichick opted not to name his choice.
“Yeah, no. We still have a lot of decisions to make,” Belichick said.
As for what Belichick might be looking for on the practice field between now and the season opener to help make that decision, the coach was a bit vague.
“Well, we’ll be focused on preparing for Miami. So that’s what we’ll do,” Belichick said.
After starting the game on Sunday, Newton didn’t exactly have a standout performance against the Giants. While leading the Patriots for two drives, Newton was 2-for-5 for 10 yards with an interception.
Newton’s night began at the New England 46-yard line, after the Patriots’ defense forced a punt from the Giants on the opening possession. He uncorked his first pass on a second-and-6, firing a bullet to Jakobi Meyers on a comeback route on the right side of the field. Meyers — a vacuum for the football this summer — made a diving catch for a six-yard gain.
Meyers and Newton weren’t on the same page a few plays later, when Newton quickly fired a pass toward Meyers to beat a blitz. But Meyers didn’t run the hot route that Newton expected him to, and the pass sailed into no-man’s land.
On the next play, Newton stared down Nelson Agholor on the left sideline, but the receiver was tightly covered, and Newton’s low throw in Agholor’s direction amounted to being essentially a throwaway. Nick Folk came on for a successful 41-yard field goal attempt, giving New England a 3-0 lead.
Newton’s second series began with the QB backed up against his own goal line, with New England gaining possession at its own 3-yard line following another Giants punt.
After Newton completed a pass to Agholor for four yards, Trent Brown jumped early, forcing the Patriots into a third-and-7. Newton looked to Meyers up the left seam, and though he didn’t throw an awful pass, he ended up with an interception. Meyers got both hands on the ball and tried to haul it in, but linebacker Blake Martinez wrestled it out of Meyers’ hands. As the two bodies fell to the turf, Martinez secured the interception at the Patriots’ 41-yard line.
That pass was underthrown, as leading Meyers deeper up the field between the hash marks could have resulted in a long completion, as the safety was in cover-2 and might not have been able to break up a well-placed deep ball. A deep shot at Kendrick Bourne up the left sideline likewise might have worked against that same safety.
📺: WNBC/NFL Network pic.twitter.com/AOOtEEGYRm
— New York Giants (@Giants) August 29, 2021
In any event, Martinez made an excellent play to steal the ball from Meyers and end Newton’s preseason on a sour note.
For the preseason, Newton completed 14 of his 21 passes for 162 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Newton also took zero sacks. Notably, he had zero rushing attempts, as the 32-year-old is likely saving that part of his game for regular season.
And while nothing is ever a certainty with regard to what Bill Belichick might do, the start on Sunday after the “misunderstanding” last week seemingly signifies that the Patriots’ plans to start Newton in Week 1 remain unchanged..