Dejected New England Patriots quarterback Cam Newton called his fumble late in the fourth quarter of Sunday's 24-21 road loss to the Buffalo Bills "unacceptable," as it cost the team a chance at a game-tying field goal and possibly a chance to win.
"I gotta protect the ball better. I know that has just been kind of like a broken record of late," Newton said.
Newton had the ball stripped away by Bills defensive tackle Justin Zimmer at the Buffalo 14-yard line with 31 seconds to play. It was his only turnover, but a most costly one, coming after a week during which he harped on taking better care of the ball following a three-interception performance in a blowout loss to the San Francisco 49ers.
"I am still jeopardizing this team's success because of my lackluster performance of protecting the football. Coach trusts me with the ball in his hand and I wouldn't want it any other way. I just have to do a better job protecting it," he said after the Patriots dropped to 2-5 with a fourth consecutive loss.
"It's extremely frustrating, but this league is not what have you done for us, but what have you done lately? I understand this is a production-based league."
Newton ran toward the left sideline, but kept the ball in his right hand, which helped give Zimmer a better chance to jar it free as he pursued Newton from the middle of the field.
"That situation, game on the line, I'm dominantly right-handed. Prior to me putting the ball in my left hand, which is my weakest arm, I just felt more comfortable with the ball in my right hand," Newton explained. "I usually always change it around with my right hand, just for comfort. ...
"Coach preaches each and every day to protect the football, play smart football. I'm converting to it. Outside of this last play, I think that is what makes it so frustrating, being that you are trying extremely hard. When you don't get the results you want, then what do you do?"
Newton will have a chance to redeem himself next week in a road game against the New York Jets on ESPN's Monday Night Football. Coach Bill Belichick said he's sticking with Newton as his starter.
Said Newton: "Nobody is feeling sorry for me, and I'm not feeling sorry for myself. I just have to be better and play 60 minutes of premium football."