Patriots quarterback Cam Newton could potentially make the 49ers’ 2020 schedule a bit more difficult.
Earlier this week, the New England Patriots dropped a bombshell by signing free-agent quarterback Cam Newton, the longtime Carolina Panthers star who was the NFL MVP back in 2015, to a one-year deal and an assumed role as the starter for head coach Bill Belichick.
Before that news broke, the Niners were scheduled to face off against those Patriots at Foxborough in Week 7, going up against an unproven second-year quarterback, Jarrett Stidham, who has only four regular-season passing attempts, or veteran signal-caller Brian Hoyer, whose own flameout in San Francisco back in 2017 hasn’t been forgotten by 49ers fans.
Newton changes things quite a bit, for sure.
Granted, Newton is coming off a forgotten 2019 campaign with the Panthers in which he was beset by injuries and no longer looking like the Pro Bowl-caliber threat he was earlier in his career. But Belichick’s own mastery and scheming abilities, combined with Newton’s still-present threat, could ultimately mean San Francisco will have a far more difficult time at Gillette Stadium than initially thought.
Cam Newton’s Career vs. 49ers
Newton was already heading towards injured reserve the last time the Panthers faced the Niners — a 51-13 throttling by San Francisco in Week 8 last season.
But Newton’s splits against the 49ers during the regular season before 2019 are telling.
Newton owns a 3-0 record against the Niners over his career, having tossed six touchdowns against three interceptions, an average of 231 yards per game with a passer rating of 86.0. On top of that, he’s netted 55 rushing yards over those three games, too, adding yet another wrinkle the 49ers have to consider.
Granted, Newton’s rushing prowess, which reached a career-high 754 yards in 2017, weren’t fully on display versus San Francisco.
But one has to figure Belichick and Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels take a look at what the Niners endured when facing mobile quarterbacks last season.
49ers’ Difficulty with Mobile QBs in 2019
Newton, now 31 years old, might not be the same kind of dual threat he was back during his heyday. But that doesn’t change the fact San Francisco had issues defending multifaceted quarterbacks last season.
The two best examples, of course, were the Arizona Cardinals’ Kyler Murray and the Seattle Seahawks’ Russell Wilson. Combined, over the four games the Niners faced these two players, Murray and Wilson netted a total of 183 rushing yards, and in three of those four NFC West divisional games, the 49ers surrendered an average of over 6.0 yards per carry to those quarterbacks.
Additionally, the Niners surrendered 101 rush yards to Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson during San Francisco’s Week 13 road loss.
Newton might not be asked to pick up chunk yardage on the ground in Belichick’s offense. But as far as elusiveness goes, he could still present a problem to the 49ers defense.
Especially if his efforts call for capitalizing on broken plays, which is something the Niners perennially seem to have trouble with in regards to Wilson.
That might be the area in which Newton threatens San Francisco’s prospects for an AFC East road win against an opponent, the Patriots, who just saw their own playoff chances increase with a former MVP now in the folds.