Another notch in the win column often takes precedence over all else when the time comes to assess the performance of a football club through a critical lens each week. Still, even if New England managed to eke past the favored Cardinals last Sunday thanks to a game-winning boot from Nick Folk, you'd be hard-pressed to find any Patriots fans willing to give the stamp of approval for the offensive performance orchestrated by Cam Newton and Co. against Arizona.
Sure, Folk splitting the uprights as time expired against the Cardinals kept the Patriots' slim playoff hopes alive, but the jury was still out on whether Newton and the Patriots' offensive personnel had enough talent to keep this second-half surge alive, with Newton closing out the game with a pair of picks and a woeful 23.6 passer rating — the lowest mark of his career.
Delving deeper into the numbers only painted a more disheartening picture of New England's key cog on offense, with only one other quarterback posting a lower expected completion percentage differential than Newton's -12.7 over the last month — and that was Jaguars sixth-round rookie Jake Luton (-15.8 in Week 11, -15.4 in Week 10). Woooof.
A quick glance over the box score following New England's road matchup against the Chargers on Sunday very well could have failed to alleviate those same fears about Newton's capacity to serve as the maestro of the Patriots' offense — at least through the air. After only connecting on nine passes for 84 yards during that close win over Arizona, Newton completed 12 passes against the Chargers ... for 69 total yards. Oooof.
But, of course, it's not like the Patriots needed to rely on Newton's arm in order to vanquish the Chargers — given the 45-0 beatdown that the Pats doled out against L.A. on Sunday. And even if Newton isn't going to be routinely serving as a thorn in the side of opposing secondaries this season, Sunday's blowout was a perfect example of how Josh McDaniels and the Patriots can continue to execute and pile up yardage with a player like Newton (and his unique skillset) at the helm.