Bill Belichick isn’t faulting Cam Newton for the screen-pass interception the Los Angeles Rams returned for a touchdown Thursday night.
Newton was trying to hit running back Damien Harris on the play, but All-Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald read the screen and grabbed Harris, impeding his movement. The QB’s pass shot past Harris and went straight to linebacker Kenny Young, who sprinted 79 yards for a pick-six.
The touchdown put the Rams up 17-0 seconds into the second quarter. They went on to win 24-3.
After the game, Newton said he should have thrown the ball into the ground. Belichick didn’t view it that way.
?That was a tough play,” the Patriots coach said Friday morning in a video conference. “Donald made a good play, knocked Damien off. He could have thrown it into the ground, but I don?t know why he would have thrown it into the ground. It really wasn?t that kind of play. It was just one of those things that, like I said, Donald made a good play, knocked the timing off a little bit.”
Young said the Rams defense was prepared for a heavy dose of Patriots screens, and that Newton’s “mannerisms” on that particular play tipped off that one was coming.
“It?s a tough situation,” Belichick said. “But if we had known that would have happened, we could have called a different play, too. That?s one of those things. We had a few of them last night, plays that just didn?t work out for us, didn?t execute well, a bad call at the bad time or whatever it was. Those were what they were.”
The interception came on the first of the Patriots’ four red-zone trips Thursday night. They managed just three total points from those drives.
According to ESPN Stats and Info, it was the first pick-six on a red-zone screen pass since 2010.
Newton completed 9 of 16 passes for 119 yards before being benched for backup Jarrett Stidham early in the fourth quarter. He now has throw for fewer than 120 passing yards in each of his last three games.
Despite those struggles and the high likelihood of New England missing the playoffs for the first time since 2008, Belichick said Newton will keep his starting job.