Yesterday the Patriots fell into a 10-0 hole almost immediately after the ball was kicked. Or at least it felt like it. The defense was getting the ball ran down its throat and making Rams’ ball catchers like Tyler Higbee look immortal in the passing game. The offense had had a possession or two and we watched Josh McDaniels again INEXPLICABLY abandon his power running offense to try and revert back to a passing first attack. It was 10-0 and it was already feeling hopeless.
And then Cam Newton threw the softest pick six you might ever see.
To a few different text threads I had the same reaction. I just laughed. Because of course that’s what happened. Our QB1 who just hasn’t been able to figure it the fuck out all year wasn’t able to collect himself when the entire 53 man roster was on its heels and put some points on the board. He couldn’t, even for a moment, look like the Cam of old. National champion, Heisman Trophy winner. First overall pick. Former league MVP. A guy who once threw for over 4,000 yards. And he couldn’t put together an even half decent drive when we really needed it.
But that might not be the worst part. The worst part is I still go into every week wondering if the old Cam, the real Cam, the one teams really didn’t want to play on Sundays, would reappear. The worst part is he, at least outwardly, still has the confidence. Not quite boastful swagger, but the confidence of a QB who just knows he is either gonna sling it or run around you or blast through you but one way or another you’re in for a long day. The worst part is I don’t want to give up on that guy.
Circumstance plays a part in all this optimism, in this hope. I know that. It’s not like we have an exciting option on the bench behind Cam Newton. When he caught the ‘rona earlier this year we started Brian Hoyer. Now sitting at #2 on the depth chart is Jarrett Stidham, which is to say, the Year 2 of Brian Hoyer. So we sort of, whether subconsciously or not, have known all along we NEED Cam to become that guy again. We need him to be the most dynamic QB in the league, maybe ever. There really isn’t another option.
But really the highest contributing part of this is Cam is just so easy to root for. He’s always smiling, he’s always having fun. He’s said to be an immensely hard worker and a football junkie. He ALWAYS owns up for his own play when it, often as of late, isn’t so great. He’s quick to talk up his teammates both to the media and on the sidelines. The entire coaching staff loves him and has called him the leader of this team almost since the minute he was signed. And all of this after overcoming years of debilitating injuries that sought to derail a once singularly promising career. He is literally everything you want in your starting QB, except that little part about getting it done on the field.
To defend Cam as much as possible, he doesn’t exactly have the Roman army-equivalent surrounding him. The patchwork offensive line has held up fairly well this season but when it starts to leak, holy damn does the boat go down quick. Yesterday was a perfect example of that as Jermaine Eluemunor was treated like a revolving door by the majority of the Rams defensive line. The irony is that I’ve derided Cam Newton all year for what appeared to be a complete lack of anything resembling pocket presence or feel, and yesterday he had those things in droves. He was stepping up, moving around the pocket, and feeling the rush. But none of that matters when you are the blood in the water and there is an AaronDonald Shark loose in the backfield. Then there are his his targets. I’m not going too far with this because I have another blog coming later on this very topic. But it isn’t like we’ve set up our new QB with a lot of weapons. Or any really. Julian Edelman, our one (1) mainstay at wide out has been hurt. We literally didn’t have a TE yesterday, did that dawn on anybody? Dalton Keene is at this point a rookie mini-offensive tackle and I’m convinced Devin Asiasi is a Greek myth where a potentially talented is football player is drafted by the game’s most storied franchise only to be super glued to the bench for all of eternity to pay for past transgressions of his family, or fucking something along those lines. It’s not great. But with all that said, there are guys open. And that is really all that matters. You can’t blame who the guys are if they are getting open. Byrd, Meyers, Ryan Izzo when he is healthy, and yes, occasionally, when he isn’t blocking from the back, N’Keal Harry all get open. Yet all Cam Newton can due a good percentage of the time is dump the ball in the dirt, miss them by a mile, hit a defensive back in the chest, or completely question his own ability and not attempt the throw, which has happened all too often. None of that even mentions the ABBBSURD amount of passes the 6’5″ and change Newton has had deflected/knocked down this year. There have been games where our passing attack has looked like Mugsy Bogues shooting jump shots on Hakeem Olajuwon and there has been exactly zero explanation for it. This whole season, where his career is, and his own skill-set just have be in his head at this point. I can’t imagine what else it could be.
Through the deflections, the frustrating sacks taken, the overall lapses in judgement (I would have let Damien Harris taken his chances 1-1 in the open field against a linebacker from the five last night, that’s just me) I’m still rooting for Cam Newton. And that’s the thing. I’m still saying “Come on man, you can do this” when if this was any other QB I’d be anonymously reporting that they were exposed to the rona, robbed a bank, pee in the pool, doesn’t tip, or has bad breath. Anything to get them the fuck off my team. With Newton, I want him to do well, and I want him to do well with the Patriots. Still. Despite the asshole outfits. He’s just that easy to root for.
We dropped, in all probability, out of playoff contention last night. So Cam Newton probably will not bring the Pats to the heights that we once hoped, and for a lot of us, kept hoping for. This was most likely a one season thing. It won’t have the same feeling, desperately begging Newton to put it together to win these next few, meaningless games; to dig deep for the moral victories that will let us all sleep easier at night. And that just sucks. Because he is so damn easy to root for.