The Patriots trailed the 49ers 33-6 early in the fourth quarter when the Patriots made the switch. At the time he was pulled, Newton had completed 9-of-15 passes for 98 yards, with no touchdowns and three interceptions. He had also rushed the ball five times for 19 yards. He had been straight up terrible.
The 24-year-old Stidham was prepared to be the starter all offseason before the Pats signed Newton in July. While this could just be Belichick protecting his starting quarterback in a blowout, it might be the start of something else. After a few bad games from Newton, the Patriots might eventually consider making this move permanent.
Newton entered the game having completed 68.1 percent of his passes on the season, but had thrown for only 871 yards, with two touchdowns and four interceptions. His QBR of 49.9 ranked 27th in the NFL.
Newton is not having a good season and he's on a one-year contract. There's no reason for the Patriots to stick with him if things are going south.
UPDATE: Bill Belichick remains committed to Newton as his starting quarterback.