After a dominating 45-0 win over the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 13, Cam Newton and the New England Patriots came crashing back down to earth on Thursday night.
Newton threw for only 119 yards with zero touchdowns and a pick-six in the 24-3 defeat. He was relieved in the fourth quarter by backup Jarrett Stidham.
The Newton-led Patriots offense has been one of the worst in the NFL all season long, and its most recent struggles have New England at 6-7 and on the brink of elimination from playoff contention. But does Newton deserve the blame, or is the unit's inefficiency a result of a lack of weapons around him?
Matt Cassel joined Tom Curran and Phil Perry on a brand new Patriots Talk Podcast to debate that question.
"I'm not watching his film and sitting there going, 'God, there's guys running wide-open down the field, [Newton's] missing a bunch of his progressions, he's not going through his reads correctly,' Cassel said. "Will he miss throws from time to time? Absolutely. Is he the most fluid thrower that we've seen? Is he the most accurate? Probably not. But at the same time, he is capable of throwing the ball, going through his progressions, going through the right reads. ...
"We talk about this [Patriots] system, this system is so entirely different than anything we've ever seen in New England, particularly in the passing game. I've never seen it this stagnant. ... In terms of creativity right now in this offense, there is no creativity, and it might be due to the personnel, it might be due to the lack of weapons, and that's just the facts of the matter."
Curran isn't quite as forgiving as Cassel, but notes Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels may be taking a piece of the blame pie after hearing head coach Bill Belichick's press conference on Friday morning.
"He just seems so glacial in decision-making while he goes through the progressions," Curran said. "And there's the level of trust he seems to have in himself ... he beats himself up so profoundly after a turnover. So all those things are preying on him as he plays the position and I think that makes him more hesitant. ...
"It was interesting to hear Bill Belichick this morning say that it was kind of bad playcalling on the pick. You're pointing out the lack of innovation offensively, and that all kind of puts [Josh] McDaniels in the crosshairs."
Also discussed on the new episode: How much is Cam Newton’s limitations impacting the Patriots’ chances of winning? Does going to Jarrett Stidham in the 4th quarter show lack of confidence in Cam? And much more.