INGLEWOOD, Calif. – Bill Belichick wasn't about to let a quarterback controversy develop, even in the immediate aftermath of one of the New England Patriots' worst offensive showings in years.
When Belichick was asked after Thursday night's 24-3 loss to the Los Angeles Rams if he would stick with Cam Newton or decide to give Jarrett Stidham an extended tryout, the longtime coach didn't waver.
"Glad you asked that. Cam’s our quarterback,” Belichick said when asked who would start on Dec. 20 against Miami.
Newton completed 9 of 16 passes for 119 yards with an interception and ended the night with a 53.9 passer rating. Stidham came on in the fourth quarter for the second straight week and was 5 of 7 for 27 yards.
Newton spoke before Belichick and said it wasn't his call on who should play QB.
"I just have to keep doing what I am asked with the mentality of trying to get better,” he said.
The Patriots had run the ball on more than 65% of their plays in wins over Arizona and the LA Chargers, but that plan wasn't going to be feasible after they fell behind 10-0 less than 10 minutes into the game.
New England fell behind 17-0 on the first play of the second quarter when Kenny Young intercepted a pass intended for Damien Harris and ran it back 79 yards for a touchdown.
“That type of play is all anticipation. I thought he got past the defender and tried to lead him. Obviously that didn’t happen and ended up being a turnover the other way,” Newton said.
The Patriots drove down to the Rams 2 on their next series, but Newton was stopped for a 2-yard loss on fourth-and-goal when he had nowhere to go or pitch to on an option.
New England was held without an offensive TD for the second time this season and 15th since Belichick became coach in 2000.
“We knew exactly what they were going to do," Newton said of the Rams. "We have to be better and it starts with me personally. I have to make more plays. We didn’t play a good style or brand tonight.”
Since throwing for 365 yards against Houston on Nov. 22, Newton has passed for a total of 172 in the last three games combined.
Fox Sports reported during Thursday's pregame show that Newton's abdominal injury, which showed up on the Patriots' injury report last week, is worse than he has been letting on, but the 10-year veteran and 2015 NFL MVP tried to dismiss any speculation about his health.
What is certain is that any momentum Newton and the Patriots had with four wins in the last five games entering Thursday night has come crashing down. New England (6-7) has seven losses for the first time since 2002 — the year after their first of six Super Bowl titles under Belichick — and appears likely to miss the playoffs for the first time since 2008.
New England will be at least two games out of the final AFC wild card after this weekend's games. Indianapolis (8-4), which currently has the final spot, travels to Las Vegas (7-5), and Baltimore (7-5) is at Cleveland (9-3). The Patriots finish the season against the Dolphins (8-4), AFC-East leading Bills (9-3) and currently winless Jets (0-12).
Newton will be a free agent at the end of the season, which has made some wonder why the Patriots would not try to give Stidham a chance. But Belichick is more focused on the present.
“He’s worked hard and taken advantage of opportunities. That’s not really the point at the moment,” he said.
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