FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- If you were trying to encapsulate the Cam Newton experience with the Patriots in 2020, the opening drive of Monday's 38-9 loss to the Buffalo Bills is a perfect place to start. It was on a second-and-13 attempt where Newton dropped back to pass, saw Damiere Byrd racing toward the left pylon near the end zone, and delivered a perfect strike in stride. Touchdown, right? Well, you'd think. Instead, the ball bounced off Byrd's chest and fell incomplete, and New England had to settle for a field goal.
Good, but not as good as it could've been.
That has essentially been the slogan for Newton's tenure with the Patriots, even when it's been through no fault of his own. Things just haven't clicked as well as both sides hoped it would when the veteran quarterback agreed to sign with New England and help usher in the post-Tom Brady era this summer. Throughout the year, the passing game has been non-existent for the Patriots and has really slowed as of late. Over the last five games, Newton has totaled just 515 yards through the air, which includes just 34 yards passing against Buffalo on Monday night before being sent to the bench in the third quarter.
"It's extremely frustrating, knowing what you're capable of, having belief in yourself," Newton said postgame. "It's just not showing when it counts the most."
Although you can say that bringing Newton aboard hasn't lived up to the promise it had over the summer months, it's a decision that New England shouldn't necessarily regret. Out of the Patriots' offseason options, especially considering their cap situation, Newton presented the potential of providing the biggest returns. At the peak of his powers, Newton is a league MVP, which cannot be said about Andy Dalton, Marcus Mariota or any of the other quarterbacks that could've realistically been in the Patriots' crosshairs this offseason. He'd been snakebitten by shoulder and foot injuries over the last few years coming into 2020 and there was a case to be made that, if he got right, he'd be able to get back to Super Cam.
Despite flashes of the Man of Steel -- like this rushing touchdown during Monday's loss -- things never fully came together for Newton as most of his highlights as the Patriots quarterback have come on the ground.
Although utilizing Newton's legs is all well and good, having that essentially be the only way the Patriots offense can produce points while he's under center has proven to be unsustainable, which was evident in Monday's loss. Josh Allen and the Bills rattled off 21 unanswered points around halftime and Newton -- through a lack of ability with his arm and lack of weapons around him in the passing game -- simply couldn't even begin to dig the Patriots out of it.
"it's disappointing," he said of the loss and his struggles. "But, you know, I'm just doing what I'm asked to do, trying to be the best player for this team I can possibly be. That's what it is "
When folks look back at this unprecedented down season in Foxborough, it'll be easy to say that the Patriots should have gone in a different direction at quarterback once Brady signed his deal with Tampa Bay. However it could be argued that Newton was the best option they had in front of them. That includes Jarrett Stidham, who Bill Belichick has essentially admitted through his action of not playing him that he's not a capable starting quarterback. If he was, he'd be playing. With that in mind, the in-house options weren't there for the Patriots and Newton had the highest ceiling of what was left. It's just that he also had the lowest floor, which New England is all too familiar with as the team is about to head into Week 17 at 6-9 and on the outside looking in at the playoffs.