By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
It's clear now that the Patriots' offensive struggles go beyond a lack of high-end talent at wide receiver and tight end. All three quarterbacks have struggled mightily over the course of the Pats' three-game losing streak, with Cam Newton the latest to deliver some of the poorest quarterback play ever seen under Bill Belichick in the Patriots offense.
Pass-catchers have been getting open more than Newton's hesitation to throw might be letting on. It's an indication that Newton is overthinking things when dropping back to pass, and he has admitted as much in the wake of the Patriots' disastrous 33-6 loss to the San Francisco 49ers last Sunday. Moving forward, it's about improving in even the most basic areas without dwelling on the past.
“For me it’s just about allowing plays to linger," Newton said Thursday. "When I say that, I don’t mean it just by the bad plays, I mean by good plays too. Success, in many ways, can be the biggest distraction. I think the fact when you have learning curves like I’m having now, or this team so to speak, you can kind of really go in depth and see what the issue is. But yet, I think the thing for me, this offense is so advanced and so schematically driven by a specific reaction of how the defense, or what the defense is doing, and I just have to be accessible to understanding the play-caller’s purpose and being able to execute at hand – whether we went over it or not.
"Josh does a great job with game-planning. These last two games, it’s been one after another, that I’ve been more thinking more than playing and reacting; what I pride myself on doing. He’s been great throughout this process. Jedd as well as Coach Bill. But I do understand that type of football play is unacceptable. By no means. I’m all about putting the team in the best situation to win and that’s what I have to do moving forward."
Beyond the complexity of the Patriots' passing scheme is attention to the finer details that every great quarterback excels at, especially Tom Brady during his time in New England. Newton said he feels good about the work he's put in at practice, which has returned to full normalcy after COVID-19 turned the Pats upside-down for a couple of weeks.
“It’s just taking pride in the little things and doing a little better – from protection slides, to who is the mike, to what’s the line doing, to taking full ownership of this offense," Newton said. "Because at the end of the; no one cares when you got here – look, you’re the next opponent and we’re trying to win just like you’re trying to win. That’s all it’s all about for me. It’s just growth into this offense and giving everybody that type of comfort to know that whatever play is called that I’m going to put them in the best situation – whether it’s a chunk play, checking it down; you feel as if pre-snap you’re going to have to check the ball down but a chunk play opens up. That’s what we have to get to.”
Newton continued an encouraging trend throughout this season of holding himself accountable for his own mistakes. That culminated Thursday when Newton declared: "Losing is not acceptable in this locker room, in this county, in this state, this area, this region. So Cameron Newton, you need to pick your expletive up." But McDaniels also held himself accountable for not paying enough attention to the smaller details and putting Newton in more of a position to succeed.
“Certainly, there’s things that we need to do better," McDaniels said Tuesday. "You know, passing the ball in the National Football League and having a lot of success starts with fundamentals, footwork, technique, doing the little things right relative to moving in the pocket and putting yourself in a good position to throw. Obviously, we got to do things right on the other end, too, so pass protection always plays a part in that, route-running, ability to read and be on the same page with the skill players. There’s no shortcut to this.
"Certainly, nobody is happy. It’s my responsibility and I’m accountable to that. We’re going to work as hard as we can to try and make improvements every day in practice. I know Cam will. He’s dedicated to doing that. I know our whole group is. Nobody’s content with what we’ve been able to do recently, and we know we have to make a lot of progress quickly and we’ll be hard at work doing that this week."
Unfortunately for the 2-4 Patriots, the first step to righting the ship on offense comes on the road against the 5-2 Buffalo Bills, who have become the team to beat in the AFC East this season. But focusing on the fundamentals and playing to Newton's strengths could go a long way to making the learning curve less treacherous - and perhaps propelling the Patriots toward a season-saving run.
Sports Hub Sidelines Podcast
Ty Anderson and I went in-depth on the Patriots' recent struggles and how to turn their season around. Have a listen below. Patriots talk starts at 11:46.
Alex Barth and I talk Patriots every single week on 985TheSportsHub.com. Listen below for the Week 8 podcast, where we discuss the state of the Pats' receiver corps, Cam Newton's struggles, and the potential for a Stephon Gilmore trade.
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Yell at him on Twitter @mattdolloff or send him a nasty email at [email protected].