Cam Newton continued a troubling trend in Sunday's 33-6 stunningly uncompetitive home loss to the San Francisco 49ers, as he was sloppy with the ball (three interceptions) and looked uncomfortable throughout. The Patriots replaced him with Jarrett Stidham with 13:20 remaining in the fourth quarter, after Newton went 9-of-15 for 98 yards.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick said afterward that Newton "absolutely" remains the starter going forward, and he chose to insert Stidham to get him some experience.
By the time Stidham entered the game, it was well out of reach -- the 49ers led 23-3 at the half and 33-6 when Newton was pulled -- as this marked the worst home loss in Belichick's 21-year tenure as coach.
Entering Sunday, the Patriots had lost by 20 or more points at home only three times under Belichick, with two of those losses coming in 2008, when Brady was out for the season because of a torn ACL.
As for Newton, he said his surgically repaired right throwing shoulder is "fine" and that he doesn't think his issues are related to mechanics.
"I've just been pressing. The energy has definitely been off for me, and at times it's not rewarding when you're just going out there with this aura about yourself that's not you," he said. "I love playing this game, I have fun playing this game, but the performances here hasn't been delightful for me. ... A lot of things start and stop at that position, and I have put this team in a rut with the performances here."
In their 2-4 start, the Patriots have thrown three touchdown passes (fewest in the NFL) and 11 interceptions (most in the NFL). Brady, now with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, has thrown 18 touchdown passes and four interceptions this season.
With the Bills (5-2) and Dolphins (3-3) atop the AFC East, the Patriots continue to find themselves in an unfamiliar spot. The last time they were more than two games back in the division was in 2000, Belichick's first year as coach. The Pats finished six games back that year and were 3.5 games back at the end of Week 7.
Safety and captain Devin McCourty, who has been with the Patriots since 2010, acknowledged the team hasn't been in this position before, saying, "You don't ever want to come out there and get embarrassed the way we did. And there's no excuse. We have to go out there and play to keep jobs right now. I know Coach Belichick, the Krafts, they're not fielding a team for us to go out there and play like that. So we have to improve in a hurry."
Some of the notable lowlights from Sunday:
• This marked the second game this season in which the Patriots threw three interceptions. The other was a Week 4 loss at Kansas City, in which backups Brian Hoyer and Stidham played in Newton's place. The last time the Patriots had multiple three-interception games in a season was in 2003.
• At the half, Newton was 4-of-8 for 30 yards with two interceptions. The Patriots held the ball for 7 minutes, 30 seconds, their lowest in a first half in Belichick's tenure.
• Their 16 offensive plays in the first half were their fewest in any half under Belichick and their fewest since 1997, the first year of Pete Carroll's coaching tenure in New England.
• All three Newton interceptions were targeting wide receivers. The Patriots have one passing touchdown and eight interceptions on passes to wide receivers this season, according to ESPN's Stats & Information research.
• Newton is the first Patriots player with no touchdown passes and multiple interceptions in back-to-back games since Drew Bledsoe in 1995. Newton is the first Patriots player with no touchdown passes, at least three interceptions and fewer than 100 passing yards since Steve Grogan in 1983.
• Coming off last week's upset loss to the Denver Broncos, the Patriots (2-4) have lost back-to-back home games for the first time since the 2008 season.
• Overall, the Patriots have lost three games in a row. They had gone 286 straight games without a three-game losing streak -- going back to October 2002 -- which is the longest span between three-game losing streaks in NFL history.
In fairness to Newton and the Patriots' other quarterbacks, it isn't as if they have top-of-the-line personnel to throw to, with Patriots receivers ranking last in the NFL in terms of creating separation entering the game, according to NFL Next Gen Stats data. The Patriots also rank at the bottom of the league in pass-catching production from tight ends.