Before losing a fumble on a rushing attempt late in the game to thwart his team’s hope of a come-from-behind victory against the Buffalo Bills, New England Patriots quarterback Cam Newton had played his best game in a while: he looked good throwing the football, and found success on designed runs and scrambles as well. As the game went on, he started to look more and more like the Cam Newton of old.
And then, it all came crashing down. Or better: Bills defensive lineman Justin Zimmer came crashing down on him, knocking the football free and setting up a Buffalo recovery to end the game 24-21 in his team’s favor.
Newton’s fumble cost the Patriots a chance at snapping a three-game losing streak that has now increased to four, and also goes into the books as his eighth turnover this season. The former league MVP had previously thrown seven interceptions — including five in the last two games — and now lost his first fumble of the season just as New England was driving for either a tying field goal or a game-winning touchdown.
The veteran quarterback’s reaction after the game was therefore to be expected.
“It’s unacceptable. I’ve got to protect the ball,” he said.
“I’m still jeopardizing this team’s success because of my lackluster performances of protecting the football. Coach trusts me with the ball in my hands, and I wouldn’t want it any other way. I just have to do a better job protecting it.”
While Newton did have a strong overall game in Buffalo with the exception of his final play, that one fateful slip-up was the dominant storyline coming out of the game. Instead of possibly being hailed as the player who helped New England come back in the last minute to defeat the AFC East leaders on the road, the conversation turned to the ball security issues that have plagued him since his return from a positive Covid-19 diagnosis.
“It’s extremely frustrating,” Newton said. “This league is not about what have you done for us, what have you done for me lately. I understand this is a production-based league. Coach preaches each and every day to protect the football, play smart football. I’m converting to it, outside of this last play. I think that’s what makes it so frustrating: you’re trying extremely hard but at the end of the day, you’re not getting the results that you want.”
For the time being, however, Newton will continue to get a chance to prove that he can indeed get those results: Patriots head coach Bill Belichick was again asked about the quarterback situation after the game, and once more confirmed the 31-year-old as New England’s starter. Nevertheless, Newton knows that he will have to improve to keep his job.
“It’s unacceptable on my part. I know that’s just been kind of like a broken record lately,” he repeated. “People are not going to feel sorry for me, and I’m not feeling sorry for myself. I just have to get better and just play 60 minutes of premium football.”