Cam Newton’s Patriots are 1-1, and they were mere feet from being 2-0.
With time left for one play, Newton gave a valiant effort on first-and-goal Sunday, attempting to dive from 10 or 11 feet out, but was upended by L.J. Collier short of the game-winning touchdown. The score would have cemented an improbable and incredible comeback from Newton. Instead, he was left to explain what happened this week.
“The same damn play,” Newton said when asked if he’d run the final play again, via WEEI’s Ryan Hannable. “For me, we ran the play four times and we were successful three of the four times and the last time was the fourth play.”
Everyone watching at home — since there were no fans at CenturyLink Field — knew what play was coming. NBC’s Cris Collinsworth essentially called it before the snap. With Newton behind center and a yard standing between the Patriots and a win, he was their best option.
Seattle knew, too, and threw every last effort it had at blowing the play up. It worked, and now the Patriots move to Week 3 with an even record.
“At the end of the day, my responsibility is to prepare our group to be able to execute and be successful in those types of situations and/or to have a call that assists us in gaining some success in those situations,” Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said, again via Hannable. “So, that’s my responsibility. And I’m accountable for the fact that we didn’t score there at the end, and I need to do a better job of being able to help our guys finish in that situation.
“We have used that formation multiple times in multiple different games here this year. We’ve run multiple different plays from it, which is — it’s an element of — there’s misdirection, there’s some straightforward stuff to it. You saw us throw past to (Jakob Johnson) out of it. So, there’s different things that we can do and that we have done. And at the end of the day, you have to make a choice there.”
Some might wonder if things would have played out differently had Newton had another viable option outside of Julian Edelman, who exhausted himself while catching eight passes for 179 yards and even serving as an unlikely deep threat on one long completion. Damiere Byrd was effective on the outside, catching six passes for 72 yards, and N'Keal Harry posted a line of eight catches for 72 yards, as well, but the Patriots still seemed to lack another option outside of Edelman.
And when Newton went to Edelman in the end zone on the final drive, the pass went through his hands for an incompletion.
Newton wouldn’t bite when asked about the weapons available to him.
“Man, I’ll say this, the answer is in that locker room,” Newton said. “Simple and plain. … We good to go.”
Newton has brought a new vibe to the Patriots in the initial weeks of the post-Tom Brady era, helping New England change its offense to center around Newton’s ability to both throw and run. He said Tuesday he feels his role in the Patriots offense has “a lot more people aware of what I’m doing” as a passer.
When it came to passing in Week 2, Newton was remarkably effective, completing 30 of 44 passes for 397 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
It worked in Week 1 and again in Week 2, almost producing another win. Should the Patriots maintain this level of play and competitiveness, they very well could find themselves pushing the Buffalo Bills for the AFC East crown, or with a Wild Card berth. That type of result would warrant a contract extension for Newton, who is playing on a one-year deal that puts him below a cast of backups and journeymen in the salary rankings.
That’s not a focus of Newton — not after just two games with his new team.
“Surprisingly but true and factual enough, if I do what I am supposed to do, as I am expecting to, that will not be a topic of discussion here moving forward,” Newton said. “Like I said, you’re talking to a person who — money at this particular point in my career is not important, right? Let’s be honest, I’ve made money. But for everything I play this game for, I haven’t received yet. And that’s why I’m playing. It’s not about money, it’s about respect.
“For me, if I do what I am supposed to do, everything else will take care of itself.”
New England returns to action with a Week 3 game against the Las Vegas Raiders, who are still reveling in the glow of their stadium-opening win over New Orleans on Monday night. We’ll see if Newton can spoil their good feelings and earn a bounce-back win for his new team.
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