A failed connection between Cam Newton and N’Keal Harry ended the New England Patriots’ comeback bid Sunday afternoon.
Facing fourth-and-10 from the Denver Broncos’ 24-yard line with 63 seconds to play, Newton’s pass sailed wide of Harry and fell incomplete, allowing Denver to close out an 18-12 upset victory at Gillette Stadium.
Newton explained his thought process on that ill-fated final play during his postgame video conference. The wide pass, he said, was intentional.
“We didn’t execute the way we’re supposed to, and that’s a lot,” the Patriots quarterback said. “That was contingent upon me. I knew I was going to get hit, so I just tried to find a spot to give him (the ball) so he could make a play on it. There was a defender on the interior part stealing the field, so I still tried to give him an opportunity. So that’s what it came down to.”
The Broncos brought pressure on the play, sending both of their safeties on interior blitzes. Denver coach Vic Fangio said it was the first time he’d ever called that particular blitz in his 40-year coaching career.
With cornerback De’Vante Bausby applying inside leverage on Harry, Newton hoped the young wideout would break his route toward the sideline. But Harry turned toward the middle of the field instead.
Once he did that, the play was cooked.
“It wasn’t a miscommunication,” Newton said. “I tried to anticipate where he was going to be. I let the ball go prior to him breaking on his initial route. I knew I was going to get hit, and I tried to give him a chance.”
Sunday was another quiet day for Harry, who’s managed just five catches on 12 targets since his Week 2 breakout in Seattle. The 2019 first-round pick finished without a reception and was targeted just twice in 51 snaps, one of which resulted in an interception.
Newton also struggled in his return from the reserve/COVID-19 list, completing 17 of 25 passes for 157 yards with no touchdowns, two picks and one fumble (recovered by the Patriots). The QB had practiced just once since testing positive Oct. 3, which he said “without a doubt” affected his play.
“The time off showed,” said Newton, who’s surpassed 175 passing yards just once in four starts this season. “But I have to be better, and I will be better.”