Shattering Cam Newton’s Patriots Debut: Flashes of ‘Superman’, But Questions Remain After Victory Over Dolphins
Cam Newton didn’t make any real big plays on his gritty debut with the Patriots against the Dolphins. But the simple act of looking healthy and running efficiently was huge in his first game as he replaced Tom Brady as New England starting quarterback.
More importantly, Newton showed no signs that his recent shoulder or foot injuries were problems. As expected, he also gave the Patriots something Brady never did – acting as an extra running back with 75 yards and 2 touchdowns in 15 attempts.
Those carries, including a late knee, matched his number of successful passes (15 of 19 attempts). He needed to pitch for just 155 yards in a 21-11 win.
Newton has had a few of his flashy “Superman” moments in celebration, but he hasn’t tried to overdo it. He stayed in the Patriots’ offense, didn’t force the ball down the field and relied on his best offensive skill and blocking support. With the Patriots’ defense dominating and taking the ball away from the Dolphins three times, Newton became the ultimate goalie with his chain run and short passes.
Consider the Patriots’ biggest offensive gain was Newton’s 25-yard pass to tight end Ryan Izzo. Newton’s longest run was only 12 yards.
New England held the ball for almost 35 minutes and Newton completed 78.9% of his passes with a powerful rating of 100.7. The Dolphins got him two sacks, but the Patriots have consistently had positive plays to keep them on schedule, going 6-of-11 in the third and fourth conversion attempts.
Because it’s the Patriots, Newton’s performance is doomed to be exaggerated as an example of Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels being absolute geniuses for signing him late and thinking he might fit in on offense.
But let’s also remember that this was the Dolphins, a rebuilding defense of secondary strength with high-priced cornerbacks Xavien Howard and Byron Jones. Miami has a weak front, which is not surprising that New England were able to rush for 217 yards as a team, led by Newton.
Newton will need to be prepared to do a lot more in Week 2, as the Patriots move to take on Russell Wilson and the Seahawks, who dropped 38 points to the Falcons in Week 1. Seattle is a familiar foe in the United States. NFC for Newton, and much better all-rounder than Miami.
Unfortunately for Newton, the Patriots have shown their offensive weaknesses around him. They don’t have much confidence in the passing game after Brady’s two favorite former targets, Julian Edelman and James White. They are always looking for consistent answers from their traditional racing game.
The Patriots had the perfect, mastered game plan for Newton to get his feet wet, relying mostly on those feet. When Newton faces more defensive resistance and has more offensive burden, then that will be a true measure of what he can bring to the Patriots for the whole of 2020.
So far, everything has been going well for the most enigmatic quarterback of the season. A few key questions were answered right away, but there is still much of Newton’s mystery to be resolved.