Guregian: Cam Newton not close to being Superman, but makes game-winning play

FOXBORO — Maybe Bill Belichick wouldn’t admit or acknowledge it after the game, but the thought had to cross his mind about pulling the plug on this not-so-excellent Cam Newton adventure.
Maybe not for the game at hand, but for the rest of the season. That was how it was trending, as Newton was performing that badly against the Cardinals.
With a mere 179 yards of total offense, a scant 84 passing yards on just nine completions, and a pair of interceptions, it appeared time to go to the bullpen for someone else the rest of the way, especially with the Patriots’ scant playoff hopes seemingly headed out the door.
Only something happened on the way to Jarrett Stidham time.
After nearly giving the game away with his second interception, Newton actually made a rare comeback to help the Patriots upset the Cardinals, 20-17. And to put the Patriots over the top, he did the one thing he still does incredibly well — run the football.
Facing a third-and-13 from the Patriots 32 with 56 seconds to play in the fourth quarter of a tie game, Josh McDaniels called for a read-option, essentially putting the ball in the hands of his best offensive player, theoretically at least.
Newton, for the first time in the game, didn’t disappoint.
He took the snap from the shotgun, turned and tucked the ball into James White’s stomach, but pulled it away at the last second. He had the ball and sped off around the left side. He galloped toward the first-down marker and dipped out of bounds with the necessary yards, with an oncoming Cardinals defender about to pounce.
It was a 14-yard gain, and a first down.
Cardinals linebacker Isaiah Simmons, however, couldn’t resist clobbering Newton, who was a bit beyond the sideline. After being surrounded by an angry mob of Patriots sticking up for their quarterback, Simmons was assessed an unnecessary roughness penalty for his trouble, tacking 15 more yards onto the play.
That put the ball on the Cardinals 39 with 50 seconds to go. Newton hit Damiere Byrd for a 5-yard gain, White ran for another yard, and Newton ran the clock down before spiking the ball with three seconds to go to give Nick Folk a shot at a 50-yarder.
He made it, and the Patriots are alive to fight another Sunday.
“They were blitzing the house on that one, and it was kind of the perfect call right there,” White said of Newton’s pivotal play. “He got enough yards and the penalty gave us even more yards, so it was a huge play in the game. Like I said, it gave us the boost to win it.”
Along with a stingy defense, and getting great special teams play, Newton’s mobility staved off playoff extinction. And maybe, it also saved the Patriots starting quarterback from a place on the bench the rest of the way.
At 5-6, with an outside shot at the playoffs, it’s doubtful Belichick will yank his starter.
Newton surely had his difficulties in the game, but he was still able to put together a game-winning drive late, which is something he hadn’t been able to do on so many other occasions.
That run was clutch, and the Patriots were able to pull out a win, much like they did in Week 9 against the Jets.
It wasn’t pretty, but there’s something to be said about Superman managing to get the job done.
“I said in the locker room, I’d rather have an ugly win rather than a pretty loss, if that makes any sense. I don’t know if that even exists,” Newton said afterwards. “We didn’t play our best game offensively, but when we needed it, we got the job done. That’s all that counts.”
With their collective backs against the wall, and likely needing to win out to have a shot at a postseason berth, doing whatever’s necessary is what counts for the Patriots, and after a miserable outing, where Newton had regressed to the point of throwing picks, holding the ball too long, and just being unable to make a decision on passing plays, he still made the biggest offensive play in the game.
“(That play) meant a lot for the team, and I’m sure it was huge for him as well,” said White. “It’s not always going to be pretty out there. It’s not always going to be perfect out there, including myself. I had some terrible plays out there, too.
“But that (play) was huge,” White went on. “You just gotta make the plays when they matter the most. In that situation right there, we always talk about situational football, and to be third and long, be able to make that run, and convert for us, it was the biggest play in the game.”
Belichick was asked if he remained firmly in Cam’s corner going forward given the quarterback’s struggles.
Belichick didn’t directly answer the question, but still appears locked-in with Newton for now.
“We just kind of keep working to get better. Cam threw for 350 last week,” Belichick said. “The most important thing is we made the plays we needed to make to win. That’s what the goal will be every week.”
It might have only been one play, but it kept the chains moving, and the season moving as well.
Prior to that, Newton had a miserable 13 quarterback rating at the half (3-for-8, 37 yards, 1 pick, 2 sacks), and finished with a 23.6 rating overall.
He knows it’s not good. He knows he’s lucky the other units bailed him out, as any morsel of hope had appeared to be buried with 4:27 left in the game, when Newton was picked off trying to hit Byrd.
“It was just a bad throw,” said Newton. “For me, I can’t jeopardize this team and put the ball up for grabs, so to speak. I just got to get Damiere a better ball so he can compete and contest it.”
The Cardinals got the ball on the Patriots’ 47 with the score tied, and plenty of time left, but the Patriots stopped them on the 27, forcing a field goal attempt that went awry.
So Newton & Co. got the ball back with 1:47 to go, and a chance to avoid overtime.
This time, Newton delivered.
“As we keep moving forward, we’re going to need a lot of hands on deck with the wins, no matter how it may come, running game, passing game, defense, special teams,” said Newton. “We just need to win.”

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