Excluding the final kneel-down before the half, the New England Patriots had six possessions over the first three quarters of their game against the Denver Broncos. Only one of those six possessions ended with points — a 41-yard Nick Folk field goal — while two saw the punt team come on to kick the ball away. The other three, meanwhile, resulted in turnovers.
The Patriots’ first drive of the day ended with an interception, when a Cam Newton pass was tipped at the line of scrimmage and picked off by Denver defensive lineman DeShawn Williams. Newton also threw an interception late in the third period on another tipped pass that ended up in the hands of a Broncos defender, cornerback Bryce Callahan. In between, tight end Ryan Izzo lost a fumble on a catch-and-run.
Denver scored six points directly after New England giveaways, which is not as bad as it could have been. Nevertheless, the ball security issues repeatedly put the Patriots’ defense in bad situations and played a big role in the team’s 18-12 loss.
“No matter what the sputtering was on the offensive side, the defense gave us opportunities by holding them to field goals and that’s what we can only ask for as an offense. We just let this game slip away by the lackluster performance of protecting the football,” Newton acknowledged during his media conference call after the game.
The Patriots’ starting quarterback was back on the field after having missed the team’s last game, a Week 4 matchup with the Kansas City Chiefs, following a positive Covid-19 test. Newton’s return did not give the unit the boost it needed, though, and his two interceptions contributed to this as he said following the game.
“My job here moving forward is to find ways to win football games and to put this team in the best situation and it just starts with protecting the football,” the 31-year-old noted.
Through his first four contests as a Patriot, protecting the football has been a problem for Newton. The former league MVP is averaging a turnover per game, having thrown four total interceptions compared to just two touchdowns. While his game extends beyond traditional methods of measuring quarterback play, turnovers need to be avoided regardless of how they happen or impact statistics in the grand scheme of things.
“Any time you turn the ball over that many times, the success rate is extremely low,” Newton said on Sunday.
The Patriots are certainly familiar with that. The team won the turnover battle in both of its victories so far this season, but failed to accomplish the same during its four losses. All in all, the club has the same number of giveaways and takeaways through five games: New England’s offense lost the football 10 times, with the defense getting it back 10 times. Getting that first number down will be imperative moving forward as Newton knows.
“I think for us the first thing the number one thing is protecting the football,” he said. “That’s what it comes down to. The turnovers, those are drive killers and those are game killers. And it starts with me. I’m extremely frustrated in myself am my performance moving forward. I’m here for one reason and I didn’t get the job done today.
“You can just imagine how I feel, but I don’t want this to be a pity party. We do have another opportunity here coming up, we have to follow this up with great practice this week and I look forward to it.”