Only four days after an impressive outing against the Los Angeles Chargers, the New England Patriots played arguably their worst offensive game of the season. The unit never established a rhythm, turned the ball over on back-to-back red zone trips in the first half, and at the end of the day finished with just three points while the Patriots saw their playoff hopes take a major hit in a 24-3 loss.
After a defeat such as this, quite a few fingers will be pointed by fans and media members alike. One popular target of that criticism given the position he plays is starting quarterback Cam Newton. The first-year Patriot has had another disappointing outing versus the Rams, going just 9-for-16 as a passer for 119 yards and an interception that was run back for a touchdown. Newton was eventually benched for Jarrett Stidham after three quarters.
But while his status has very much been discussed continuously since he left the game for the bench on Thursday night, Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels is looking at somebody else to kickstart the team’s struggling offense: himself.
“Cam’s certainly been the best option for us all year long, since he earned the opportunity in training camp,” he said during a media conference call on Friday. “Look, whenever the offense struggles, I know the attention is always going to get turned to that position. Me, personally, it’s my responsibility to put us in a position to be more productive than we were last night. Every time we struggle offensively and don’t score enough points to win the game, I know I need to do a better job.”
The first season without Tom Brady under center has been a challenging one for McDaniels and his unit. The offseason preparation was moved to a virtual forum due to the Coronavirus pandemic, preseason was canceled, and Newton later missed a game because of a positive test. Along the way, the veteran signal caller tried to build an attack around the best personnel groups he had available — the offensive line and the running back group.
The result was a run-first attack that incorporated Newton as a complementary runner. While he certainly had his moments and played some impressive football along the way, his Covid-19 diagnosis threw a wrench into his development. Nevertheless, he seemed to rebound nicely over the last few weeks while leading the Patriots to four wins in five games.
McDaniels’ unit, however, still remained a work in progress as passing the football in particular remained a challenge despite defenses consistently stacking the box versus the run. The game against the Rams showed this once again, as the unit was unable to dig itself and the team out of an early hole.
The role that Newton plays in all of this cannot be left untouched, but McDaniels was quick to point out on Monday that one player alone does not make or break an offense.
“Quarterback play is dependent on a lot of things to be done right and to be executed properly,” he said. “The quarterback has to do his job, but there are a lot of other people that go into doing that same thing, and being a productive offensive unit. Cam works hard. Cam knows what we want to try to do to win.
“Right now, there’s a lot of things we all can do better. So, we have to work hard and try to come back and have a good week of preparation and practice, and see if we can play better as a a unit down in Miami and get this thing back on track.”
The first meeting against the Dolphins on opening week was an encouraging start for the new-look Patriots offense built around Newton. The situation has obviously changed since then, but maybe Week 15’s can serve as a bounce back of sorts even though it will likely be too late for a playoff push.