Cam Newton Benched as Patriots QB for Jarrett Stidham After Struggles vs. 49ers

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistOctober 25, 2020

New England Patriots quarterback Jarrett Stidham warms up before an NFL football game against the Kansas City Chiefs, Monday, Oct. 5, 2020, in Kansas City. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

It's Jarrett Stidham time.

The New England Patriots replaced Cam Newton at quarterback in the fourth quarter of Sunday's game against the San Francisco 49ers, bringing Stidham into the game. Newton was 9-of-15 for 98 yards and three interceptions prior to exiting.

Prior to Newton's arrival, it looked like the Patriots were positioning Stidham to be the Week 1 starter. They didn't select a quarterback in the 2020 draft, and Brian Hoyer was their biggest addition in free agency.

The signing of Newton obviously changed things, and a leg injury made it tough for Stidham to beat out a veteran who has three Pro Bowls and an MVP to his name.

The extent to which Newton struggled Sunday is self-evident after looking at his final numbers. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick attempted to head off any QB controversy, telling reporters that Newton remains the No. 1 option.

Maintaining that stance might become more difficult in the weeks ahead.

The Patriots lost to the Seattle Seahawks in Week 2, but Newton threw for 397 yards while running for 47 yards and two touchdowns. Signing him to a one-year, $1.8 million deal looked like a masterstroke. Since then, the 31-year-old has 417 passing yards, one touchdown and six interceptions in three games.

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One problem for New England is that Stidham may not be much of an upgrade.

He threw four passes—one of which was a pick-six—as a rookie. With Newton unavailable in Week 4 against the Kansas City Chiefs, he went 5-of-13 for 60 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.

The Patriots are now 2-4, so a 12th straight playoff appearance is far from a given. Should they continue to slide, it would make sense to give Stidham a longer run to see whether the 2019 fourth-round pick can be a viable long-term solution.