New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick decisively said he isn’t changing quarterbacks after pulling Cam Newton early in the fourth quarter of Thursday night’s 24-3 road loss to the Los Angeles Rams.
“Cam’s our quarterback,” Belichick said in his postgame news conference, cutting off the question to give his answer.
Newton finished 9-of-16 for 119 yards against the Rams, with one costly interception that was returned 79 yards for a touchdown, as the Patriots’ passing offense sputtered once again.
He was replaced by Jarrett Stidham with 10 minutes, 14 seconds remaining and the Patriots trailing 24-3.
Stidham, the 2019 fourth-round draft choice from Auburn, had been a top candidate to be Tom Brady’s replacement at the start of the season before Newton signed a one-year contract on July 8.
Asked why he wouldn’t now switch to Stidham and what Newton has shown for Belichick to stick by him, Belichick said simply: “He’s our quarterback. I think I just answered that one.”
The Patriots (6-7) still have slim odds to qualify for the postseason, with ESPN’s Football Power Index giving them a 6% chance. They visit the Miami Dolphins (8-4) on Dec. 20 before finishing with back-to-back home games against the Buffalo Bills (9-3) and New York Jets (0-12).
As for Newton, he has been most effective as a rusher this season, totaling 451 yards in 113 carries with 11 touchdowns. But when opponents limit Newton’s rushing yards, and by extension the Patriots’ overall running game, the offense hasn’t consistently been able to move the ball through the air.
Newton, when asked if he is worried he will be replaced, said, “That’s not my call. I’m just doing what I’m asked, with the mentality of getting better, and that’s what I keep planning on doing.”
He is 199-of-301 for 2,172 yards passing on the season with five touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
That, coupled with Belichick twice pulling Newton, 31, late in blowout losses, has sparked questions about a possible change.
Asked if he is happy with Stidham’s development and what he has seen from him this season, Belichick said: “Jarrett has worked hard. He’s tried to take advantage of his opportunities. But that’s not really the point.”
Newton has been playing through an abdomen injury the past two games but said it wasn’t affecting him on the field.
“We just got to be better, and it starts with me personally,” he said. “Just have to make more plays, and that’s what it comes down to.”
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