New England Patriots

L-R: Tom Brady as Patriots quarterback in 2019; Cam Newton for the Patriots against the Bills. (Winslow Townson/Mark Konezny, USA Today Sports)

By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com

What would the Patriots’ record be if they simply had a quarterback who didn’t turn the ball over? Would they be less than three games under .500?

The Pats almost went 60 minutes without an offensive turnover on Sunday at the Bills. Problem is they only went 59 minutes and 29 seconds, and lost 24-21. And their quarterback, Cam Newton, has no one to blame but himself after coughing up the ball at the worst possible time.

Newton made the kind of mistake Tom Brady rarely made, if ever, for the Patriots. Certainly not with the game on the line in the final minute. It was a stark reminder of what the Patriots lost at that position – even from a year ago.

The Patriots had a long list of problems on offense in 2019, and Brady wasn’t totally blameless. But what Brady did do was protect the football and get the little details right. The O-line was banged up, but Brady knew how to set the right protections. Pass-catchers weren’t getting open nearly often enough, but when plays weren’t there, Brady threw the ball away and seldom forced bad interceptions.

MORE: Revisiting the Patriots’ questionable decisions vs. Bills

Now the line is healthier with starting center David Andrews back, and pass-catchers are even getting a little separation. The offense is being schemed up pretty well. But now the quarterback is not only covering up the flaws, he’s making it worse. Newton has now turned the ball over eight times in seven games, while posting a 73.2 passer rating. Contrast that with Brady, who turned it over nine times all season in 2019 while posting an 88.0 rating.

“We just have to play better situational football and practice on it in each and every day,” Newton said after the game Sunday. “It’s just up to the players, including myself. It’s up to me to just execute better. That’s what it comes down to.”

Nov 1, 2020; Orchard Park, New York, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Cam Newton (1) stands in the pocket to throw a pass as Buffalo Bills defensive tackle Harrison Phillips (99) rushes in the first quarter at Bills Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Cam Newton’s costly turnovers and inability to manage the Patriots offense is a stark reminder of how much the team lost when Tom Brady left. (Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports)

It turns out that even a half-in Brady, with his patience for young receivers worn to a nub and one eye locked on free agency, is still better than an all-in Newton. The latter has admitted his struggles with the “learning curve” of the Patriots system. That’s one thing, but he’s playing losing football on top of it with his turnovers and poor decision-making.

The Patriots would have been better off trading for Alex Smith. Teddy Bridgewater at least might have managed games without pressing, if they were willing to maneuver their budget to afford his $24 million price tag. Newton came in as cheaply as possible after 31 teams passed on him, and he’s starting to show why. The idea that Belichick believed Newton would grasp the details necessary to play winning football has been an egregious miscalculation.

MORE: The Patriots tried to protect Cam Newton from himself

Newton is a superior athlete and a gifted playmaker, when he has the ball. But he’s never been the kind of quarterback the Patriots want. At this point, you have to believe Belichick would take a QB who would just keep the ball away from the other team, because Newton simply cannot. The word “unacceptable” has been uttered far too often, and we’re still less than halfway through the season.

Belichick said “Cam’s our quarterback” after the game, so it appears we’ll have to get used to life without Brady in a way we weren’t expecting – life without a quarterback who can demonstrate competent fundamentals. But perhaps we should have seen it coming.

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 matthew.dolloff@bbgi.com.