Cam Newton fumbles away Patriots' chance to tie Bills on final drive

NFL Bills v Patriots Patriots Bills

American Football

Cam Newton's ball control let him down at the worst possible moment of Sunday's game against the Bills.

With New England in range to tie the game with a field goal in the closing seconds, Newton had the football knocked away by Justin Zimmer. Buffalo's Dean Marlowe recovered, and three Josh Allen kneels later, the Bills were 24-21 victors over the Pats in Buffalo. Newton's fumble spoiled what had been his key role in New England's comeback Sunday. A two-yard rushing touchdown by Newton had tied the game at 21 midway through the fourth quarter, but after a Bills field goal, Newton's fumble ruined a chance at overtime.

While the Patriots threw a couple times earlier in their final drive, it became obvious Bill Belichick was content with a Nick Folk field-goal attempt to force overtime. After Newton completed a seven-yard pass to James White to get over midfield, it was all running. Newton went for 19 yards, then Damien Harris carried twice for nine total yards. Rex Burkhead ran once for a yard, then an attempted screen was just thrown into the ground intentionally by Newton.

That set up what turned out to be the game-deciding play, second-and-10 for the Patriots at the Buffalo 19-yard line with 37 seconds left to play. Newton ran left off tackle and picked up about five yards before Zimmer, a defensive lineman, punched with his right hand at the ball, which Newton held in his right hand. The ball popped loose, and Marlowe fell on it. Newton had fumbled twice prior to Sunday's game in 2020, but this costly fumble was the first one New England didn't recover.

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The Patriots only had two timeouts remaining, so they couldn't stop the Bills from ending the game with kneel downs. In inclement conditions, Newton's role was more as a rusher than a passer for much of New England's Week 8 loss. He finished 15-for-25 for 174 yards through the air, along with nine carries for 54 yards and a score. The loss marks the fourth-straight defeat for New England, which falls to 2-5 on the season, while Buffalo leads the AFC East at 6-2.

Things may have been different for Newton and the Pats if not for a curious onside kick decision late in the third quarter. After a Damien Harris rushing touchdown tied the game at 14, New England attempted an onside kick. The ball popped up in the air for an easy catch by the Bills.

Instead, of having to drive 75 or 80 yards, the Bills needed to go just 45 yards before Josh Allen capped the short drive off with a touchdown run. That meant Newton needed a game-tying drive once to even up at 21. And once New England held Buffalo to a late field goal and a three-point lead, Newton again needed to be the hero. Instead, he fumbled away a final chance at knotting the game up.

Week 8 marked the third-straight poor performance from Newton after his return from the COVID-19/reserve list. His 174 yards through the air were actually his most in a game since coming back from his absence, and Newton has yet to throw a touchdown since his return.