Cam Newton’s second touchdown Sunday against the Los Angeles Chargers garnered rave reviews from the New England Patriots’ offensive line.
Facing second-and-goal from the 2-yard line, Newton made a beeline for the end zone on a designed quarterback run. He made it halfway there before being stuffed by linebacker Nick Vigil at the 1.
Vigil, though, could only halt the 6-foot-5, 245-pound QB’s momentum. Newton remained on his feet and continued to inch forward.
Moments later, left guard Joe Thuney arrived to push the pile. Center David Andrews, who’d wrestled defensive tackle Linval Joseph to the turf, leaped to his feet and did the same. Left tackle Jermaine Eluemunor looped around back, grabbed hold of Newton’s shoulder pads and pulled him toward the goal line.
All the while, Newton kept his feet churning and, amid the twisted mass of bodies, eventually crossed the plane. The touchdown gave the Patriots a 21-point lead in a game they would go on to win 45-0.
Runs like that — plays most NFL quarterbacks aren’t physically capable of making — have endeared Newton to the men in charge of blocking for him.
“It’s awesome, man,” Andrews said Monday in a video conference. “It makes you want to protect him, block for him. And know if you give him a chance, he’s going to do everything he can to get in the end zone. (On) his second touchdown, I believe, they kind of had him at the 1-yard line, and we just kind of bowled it in there at the last second and got it in.
“I mean, you love that in a lot of backs, our backs do that, fall forward, get those extra yards. And he’s pretty, pretty special with the ball in his hand at times.”
Earlier in Sunday’s win, Newton picked up 2 tough yards on fourth-and-2 on the Patriots’ opening possession and dove over a pile for his first rushing touchdown, taking a shot to his injured abdomen in the process.
Though his passing production has dipped considerably of late — he’s the first starting QB to throw for fewer than 85 yards in back-to-back games and win both since Akili Smith in 2000 — Newton’s ability to make plays with his legs has been vital to New England’s recent success.
In last week’s upset of the Arizona Cardinals, Newton set up Nick Folk’s game-winning field goal with a 14-yard scamper on third-and-13. Against the Chargers, he rushed 14 times for 48 yards, including an impressive 14-yard scramble and two third-down conversions.
Newton has scored 11 rushing touchdowns this season. Only running backs Dalvin Cook (13) and Derrick Henry (12) have more. Newton’s 435 rushing yards rank third among QBs behind Lamar Jackson and Kyler Murray, and only Jackson has more rushing attempts than Newton’s 106.
Unlike the elusive Jackson and the lightning-quick Murray, Newton’s rushing style is built more on power, which his O-linemen certainly appreciate.
“It definitely is encouraging,” Thuney said Tuesday. “He’s a big guy and he can bring a nice thud. He’s a powerful guy. When he runs hard like that, I think it really encourages all of us to keep going harder.
“Everyone is playing for each other, which I think is awesome. That’s a great feeling. We want to give everything we have, because he’s giving everything he has. So it’s awesome. We all want to play hard for each other.”