Back from bye, Patriots are ready for bright lights
They beat E.J. Manuel and split with Geno Smith. They blew out Ben Roethlisberger in their last game.
Now the New England Patriots will try to stop Cam Newton and the Panthers, who bring a five-game winning streak into Monday night’s game in Carolina.
“He’s playing very efficiently. He does a good job,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said in a conference call Monday. “He’s obviously a threat with the ball in his hands to run. He can make all the throws. He can put the ball on the sideline. He’s got a lot of zip on the ball down the field and he’s a good outside thrower, good deep ball thrower. Whether it’s designed runs or scramble runs or loose-type plays, he’s been effective on all those.”
The Patriots (7-2) have faced mobile quarterbacks before this season, beating Manuel and the Bills in Week 1, and Smith’s Jets a week later. (The Jets beat New England in the rematch.) Before heading into a bye, New England earned a 55-31 victory over the Steelers and Roethlisberger, who is big and tough to bring down like Newton, but not as mobile.
“I think that a lot of the plays that Carolina runs we’ve seen from Buffalo and the Jets,” Belichick said. “The fact that we have seen some of those plays, we’ve worked on the basic blocking schemes and how to fit on them, where everybody needs to be. But it’s always a little bit different from week to week, depending on the personnel. There will be some little differences, but there are definitely some similarities between the players that you mentioned and their overall scheme.”
The Patriots have never faced Newton, having played the Panthers (6-3) just twice since beating them 32-29 in the 2004 Super Bowl. The teams split their regular-season meetings since then, with each team winning at home. But while New England remains under the same management, with Belichick as coach and Tom Brady at quarterback, the Panthers now have Ron Rivera as coach and Newton at quarterback.
After earning Offensive Rookie of the Year honors in 2011, Newton came on late in his second season after early struggles. He led the Panthers to victories in their last four games. They started 1-3 this year, but the Panthers have since won five in a row.
Newton has thrown for seven touchdowns with three interceptions over that span, and he has also run for three TDs.
“They’ve been playing from ahead a lot this year,” Belichick said. “For a quarterback, managing the game, getting the win for the team, doing the right thing in the right situation is a lot more important than individual stats. I think he’s done a good job of that for his team, making good decisions, doing things that help the team win. He’s avoided mistakes that put the team in difficult situations.”
In all, Newton has completed 62.7 percent of his passes for 1,970 yards, 13 touchdowns and eight interceptions this season.
“He can control the game, run the game from a standpoint of moving the ball in critical situations, converting third downs, converting in the red area,” Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia said in a conference call. “I think he’s done a great job of obviously just presenting a threat from both a pass game and a run game standpoint, but also being able to allow the offense to work, and allow the other players on the field to make plays.”
The Patriots return from their bye week with back-to-back night games, with Monday night’s game at Carolina followed by a Sunday night matchup with the Denver Broncos in Foxborough.