Cam Newton has been better since being benched by Bill Belichick against the Niners. Of course, if he wasn't, he might not still be the team's starting quarterback.
But he's been significantly better, according to the advanced numbers from his last three games -- even if his total passing yards and touchdowns haven't been remarkable.
Newton explained on Thursday that his benching against San Francisco was a motivating factor for him. But even more than that, his level of play against both the Broncos and the Niners upon returning to the field after dealing with COVID was simply nowhere near where he wanted it to be.
"Ever since coming back from Corona, to be honest with you, I felt stagnant in my thought process," he said. "The play's pre-snap production wasn't happening fast enough for me in games. Did it happen in practice? Yeah, but still not fast enough.
"Even still now, I can get better. Each day, each week is really an opportunity for me to hone in in this offense and just do my job. That's what it really boils down to."
Newton insisted that his processing speed at the line of scrimmage wasn't due to any COVID-related effects on his mind -- "COVID fog" -- but rather his inactivity during the two weeks he spent away from the team facility.
"No, it's nothing [COVID-related]," he said. "It's just the fact that I wasn't able to do anything during that stint while I was off, and it showed. Coming back pretty much dry, and knowing that as this offense goes, it evolves.
"The mastermind behind everything, with Josh -- his mind doesn't necessarily stop. Whether it's a new play. Whether it's something we're watching back in 2002, '11, '12. He has a plethora of plays for certain defenses that we face that he goes to. It all starts before the snap with identifying certain things. Identifying and communicating with the offensive line, the receivers and running backs. And it's my job to do so. Coming back from when I did come back, I just felt behind."
Helping the Patriots put up 23 points against the No. 1 scoring defense in the NFL, by taking care of the football and making the throws he should make, Newton showed he continues to trend in the right direction.