Patriots ready to provide slumping Cam Newton the support he needs

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Quarterback Cam Newton's return to form will be critical if the New England Patriots (2-4) will turn their season around.

He said Monday he is approaching this week as if his job is in jeopardy after throwing three interceptions in Week 7, a 33-6 home loss to the San Francisco 49ers. Newton produced six touchdowns (four rushing) with two interceptions during New England's 2-1 start. In his past two games, both losses, he has produced one rushing TD and thrown five interceptions.

The two coaches who work closest with him, Jedd Fisch and Josh McDaniels, are ready to provide any and all support leading into Sunday's crucial road game (1 p.m. ET, CBS) against the AFC East leading Buffalo Bills (5-2).

"He's continuing to gain experience and knowledge in the system," said Fisch, the quarterbacks coach. "There's clearly some times that we haven't pulled the trigger fast enough and therefore we're hitching a couple extra times or holding onto the ball a little bit longer than we would like to, and that can cause many things -- a negative play, a sack, an interception, an incompletion, a late throw.

"What we have to do is we have to continue to practice -- to get reps at all of our football plays that we run. I have to do a better job coaching. He has to continue to do a better job reacting and understanding that the looks are always going to be a little bit different. They are always going to be a little bit faster on Sundays and he is going to have to quickly translate the game from the practice field to the game field. We're all going to have to do a better job helping him there."

Newton was on the reserve/COVID-19 list from Oct. 3 to Oct. 14, which might have disrupted some of his early momentum. He said he wasn't feeling any aftereffects from the virus, and coach Bill Belichick said Tuesday he's unaware of any issues along those lines.

"I don't think so. I mean, we would have listed it on the injury report if there was, but I don't think he's had any symptoms the whole way," Belichick said.

For McDaniels, the Patriots offensive coordinator, the first step to improvement will be huddling with Newton.

"It starts with doing the things that he's comfortable with and then working those things in practice so that you end up at a place with the entire unit, so that they can get comfortable with one another," he said. "I don't think there's any shortcut to this. Bill [Belichick] has always told us that practice execution becomes game reality. For us, I think there's a lot of urgency for us to be able to see that this week and transfer that into the game."

McDaniels added passing the ball successfully "starts with fundamentals, footwork, technique, doing the little things right relative to moving in the pocket and putting yourself in a good position to throw." He compared a quarterback's mechanics to a golf swing.

Newton said after Sunday's loss he didn't believe his mechanics were a primary factor in his poor play, but that's also something every player is continually fine-tuning.

Fisch, like Newton, doesn't see that as a major obstacle.

"Practice is what helps you there and when you don't have as much practice time as he probably would have liked over the last three weeks, there's some things that may or may not have slipped. ... I don't think there's anything there that is a problem right now that is not fixable," he said.

One of Newton's strengths is creating plays that might not be there initially. But at times, that has led to him pressing and making mistakes.

"What Cam has always been able to do is make the plays off schedule, as much or more than, some of the plays on schedule. What we're trying to do is help him find that balancing act, and us as coaches also continue to build off his skill set," Fisch explained.

"The rhythm and timing of the passing game is always going to be a little bit different when you're playing with a guy like a Cam, who has had such experience extending football plays. ... What we're learning through this process, and are trying to fast-forward the learning as quickly as we possibly can, is when to maybe say 'let a play die.'

"Really the teaching for us, and what we're trying to educate Cam on -- and what Cam is educating us on -- is the difference between a first-and-10 play and a third-and-long play, and the difference between a two-minute drive and the second drive of the second quarter."

While Newton is coming off a three-interception game, Fisch said he's seeing the same quarterback behind the scenes as he did after Newton's first two games of the season.

"His demeanor, his consistency as a person, has not changed. His work ethic has not changed. If anything, he's become more determined, based on how it's been a little bit more challenging for him the last couple of weeks," he said.

"He's determined to help our football team and we're determined to help him around him. He still has that same energy, he still has that same infectious personality. On the practice field you can still feel his energy and we have to continue to embrace that, as we are."