A 22-12 loss to the Miami Dolphins on Sunday officially ended any hopes for the New England Patriots to sneak into the 2020-21 playoffs. The loss seemed to follow the story of the season, as the Patriots came up a tad short while the offense struggled to find the end zone.
After being held to under 120 passing yards in each of his last three games, Patriots quarterback Cam Newton finished Sunday’s contest 17-of-27 passing for 209 yards, while adding another 38 yards on the ground. Despite the improved efficiency, New England failed to find the end zone for the second straight week, closing the book on their season.
When airing his frustration after the loss, one specific line — in the middle of a longer answer — from Newton stood out:
“We still got guys that just don’t get it…”
During his weekly radio appearance on WEEI’s The Greg Hill Show Monday morning, Newton was asked to explain that comment in more detail.
“It’s not as negative as it sounds,” Newton said. “And let me correct myself on that — we’re depending on a lot of people who are not used to, let’s be honest, just the pressures of being a New England Patriot player. And honestly, if I am being honest and candid, I’m one of those players.
“It took me [until] after probably Week 5 to realize like, ‘Bro, this is different.’ And no different in a way of responsibility. I come on the radio station each and every week with you guys, and I look forward to it, but when it’s good, it’s fun. When you’re losing, then that’s one of the things that you have to realize, like, ‘Man, how can I piece this together to kind of give myself an opportunistic kind of thought moving forward?’ Because I know in this league, you’re only measured by wins and losses. And some of it is fair, some of it is not fair.
“But going back to the topic of some guys just don’t get it, it’s just normal being a younger or even an older player to not really kind of be able to digest the whole situation at hand. Like I said, I am learning it each and every day, and it’s just something that you just have to get used to. It’s not all negative. I know it sounds like a negative kind of response, but it takes time to just disassociate yourself from something that you’ve been used to and then try to render yourself and everything in a situation that you’re growing to learn day-by-day.”
Growing in a new situation is always tough to do, but the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic made things even more challenging this year. While every team in the league has been impacted in different ways, the Patriots were hit hard by the virus in the beginning of the season — starting with Newton himself, who was placed on the Covid-19/Reserve list in Week 4.
“I think my only regret about Covid is this: I am a very social person. I am a social peer. I am a social teammate. I am a social human being,” Newton said on WEEI. “It’s one thing to know a person on a football side, [but] Covid affected our team in a way to make a lot of us feel like associates or co-workers rather than really feeling like a team at times,” he said. “And hear me out when I say, ‘at times.’ Because for me, if this was not the case, obviously, you can have guys over, you can really find out the personal side. ‘Hey man, you got a girl? Are you married? How many kids do you have? What’s your player language?’ There’s a thing out there that says, ‘What’s your love language?’ What’s your player language? Are you the why who gets riled up in tense situations?
“You don’t necessarily know that or find that out until going through certain situations. And we didn’t have preseason. We didn’t have opportunities to kind of break and say, ‘Hey bro, every Thursday a different player is going to host Thursday Night Football.’ ’Hey, bro, let’s go on a dinner date with the wives or the girlfriends’ — things that I am used to doing.
“Sometimes I think this year, it affected a lot of me because I didn’t necessarily know [my teammates]. And it’s not an excuse, more of less the reality of being in a situation where a lot of people were affected and a lot of people were affected in a different way. If I had one thing that I could just go back and change, I would have changed that — not being able to really connect with people early on because of the limitations that Covid presented.”
After starting the season 2-1, the Patriots’ Covid outbreak certainly shifted their momentum — something Newton pointed out himself while on WEEI. New England went on to lose their next four games, while Newton turned the ball over six times in his following three starts.
The inconsistent play and the inability to finish close games have led the Patriots to where they are now — missing the playoffs for the first time since 2008. With just two games remaining, speculation continues to grow that a quarterback switch could be coming for the Patriots.
When asked about a potential switch to second-year quarterback Jarrett Stidham on Monday, Bill Belichick told reporters that “we’ll see”. While on WEEI, Newton was asked if he believes he’ll be under center this week.
“I am going to leave it up to the people I have been leaving it up to since Day 1,” Newton said. “I am not going to get caught up into it or feed into that knowing that I am still on a job interview, to be honest with you. It’s my job to put the best version of me on film and that’s what I plan on doing.”
The 31-year-old signal caller will hit free agency this offseason, as the one-year contract he signed with New England in July will expire. While his future in Foxboro is definitely in question, Newton is not ready to talk about his future outside of football just yet.
“Man, listen, I am not there,” he said on The Greg Hill Show. “One of my goals this year, for what it’s worth, was just to finish the year healthy. This year man, God has granted me and given me the opportunity to play a healthy season, for what it’s worth. Yeah, I still have a lot of football left and I still want to play football and I have the urge to be better and after putting on this film, come on now…”
Threw 13 games, Newton has completed just under 66 percent of his passes for 2,381 yards, five touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He’s rushed for an additional 489 yards and 11 touchdowns. Staying healthy throughout the entire season is a big accomplishment for the former MVP, however. After playing in just two games in 2019 after suffering a shoulder injury in 2018, Newton’s health should earn him a new contract come March.
Whether that will be with the Patriots, or someone else, is yet to be determined.
“I can’t go out like this,” Newton added. “I definitely can’t go out like this.”
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