Cam Newton may or may not have played his final game as the New England Patriots’ starting quarterback. Headed into unrestricted free agency while coming off a disappointing 2020 campaign, his future with the organization appears to very much be in question. But regardless what lies ahead for Newton and the Patriots, one thing cannot be denied: he ended the season in spectacular fashion.
Sure, leading his team to a victory over the lowly New York Jets is in itself not an impressive feature, but the 31-year-old was playing his best statistical game of the year and along the way set three new franchise records — some of which have stood for quite some time now.
So, what were those records?
1.) Longest run by a quarterback
The Patriots started the game against the Jets rather quickly, by marching down the field and scoring their first touchdown of the day. The pivotal play of the series was not Newton’s 7-yard scoring pass to James White, however, but rather the quarterback setting a new franchise mark by gaining 49 yards on a designed run: Newton burst through the line on 2nd-and-2 and was able to get into the open field; he was not stopped before reaching the New York red area.
The previous franchise record for longest run by a QB was set 57 years earlier by Tom Yewcic. A quarterback-hybrid, Yewcic gained 46 yards versus the Denver Broncos in September 1963. The only player to come close to Yewcic’s record since was Steve Grogan, who had two separate 41-yard runs — one in 1976 and one in 1977.
2.) Most rushing yards in a season by a quarterback
Newton actually set a second record on his 49-yard scamper in the first quarter: he also broke New England’s previous rushing record for a quarterback. Entering the game in need of only 26 yards to break Steve Grogan’s record — the Patriots Hall of Famer had 539 rushing yards during the team’s record-breaking 1978 campaign — Newton was able to eclipse the mark on his first carry of the day.
Newton, who also tied Steve Grogan’s single-season franchise record for most rushing touchdowns by a quarterback (12) last week, finished the day with 30 more rushing yards on 10 additional carries: he therefore finished his first year in New England with 592 rushing yards and 12 scores on 137 attempts. No other QB in team history has been as prolific on the ground in a single season.
3.) Touchdown receptions by a quarterback
The Patriots’ history is a storied one. Until Sunday, however, one thing has never happened in the organization’s 61 years: a quarterback catching a touchdown pass. In the late third quarter against the Jets, Newton did just that when he handed the ball off to Sony Michel and it was eventually pitched back to former-college-QB-turned-NFL-wide-receiver Jakobi Meyers. The second-year wideout delivered a perfect 19-yard touch pass for the score.
Meyers’ second touchdown pass of the season was also Newton’s second reception of the year, and the first that reached the end zone. He therefore also set a new franchise mark for receiving touchdowns as his position. Yes, it’s only one, but it still stands above every other QB in team history.
Even if Sunday’s game was indeed Newton’s final one as New England’s quarterback it was therefore a memorable way to go — one that has left its mark on the team’s record books.