For the third time this season, Cam Newton was on the bench as the Patriots finished out a contest. The quarterback was sent to the sideline in place of Jarrett Stidham in the third quarter of New England's eventual 38-9 loss to the Buffalo Bills on Monday night. Prior to the benching, Newton once again struggled to throw the ball as the Patriots compiled just 34 yards through the air as the quarterback completed 50% of his throws. He was able to find the end zone with his feet, but lack of aerial attack is what put a fork in the Pats in Week 16 and has ultimately been their undoing this season.
Despite Newton's issues passing, Bill Belichick has adamantly stood by him and has essentially never wavered about his starting status. While nothing is official as of yet, that looks like it'll remain true leading into the regular-season finale against the New York Jets. During his Tuesday appearance on WEEI's Ordway, Merloni & Fauria, the head coach was asked if Newton would be the starter as the Patriots close out the year in Week 17.
"I would imagine, but hey we're going through that now," he said, via WEEI.com. "We'll see."
The loss on Monday and the offensive struggles on the year as a whole haven't fallen entirely on Newton's shoulders, but there has been a case for seeing if the offense looks any different with Stidham as the starter. With Newton only on a one-year deal and Stidham a fourth-round draft choice in 2019, one would think it'd behoove New England's prospects going forward as they look for a long-term answer at the position to give Stidham a look as the starter for the first time since he's arrived in Foxborough.
That, however, hasn't happened to this point and may not come in 2020. When the idea was thrown out that the Patriots may not find out anything new about Stidham by starting him against the Jets, Belichick said, "I think there would be some truth to that."
He later noted: "At some point he will get an opportunity to play with a good opportunity to prepare and play, and that will be a better evaluation. Whatever point that is, I don't know."
That loss to Buffalo put the Patriots at 6-9 heading into Week 17 and guarantees their first losing season since 2000. While it hasn't been pretty at times, all indications point to Belichick going down with the ship with Newton as his QB1.