Guregian: No. 1 objective of reeling Patriots defense: Target Cam Newton

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FOXBORO — The Patriots defense has to snap out of it. Bill Belichick’s defenders need to stop the bleeding. It’s time for the defense to make a stand.

The best way to do that? Start with the opposing quarterback. Go right to the head of the next opponent.

Alex Smith, Drew Brees and Deshaun Watson have already killed the Patriots, racking up big numbers the first three weeks. The Pats cannot let Cam Newton do it a fourth time when the Carolina Panthers come calling at Gillette Stadium today.

Stop Newton. That should help stop the Panthers, and help build some positive momentum for the defense going forward.

With the Patriots having surrendered the most points (95) and yardage (1,383) in the NFL, they need to start turning it around defensively. They can’t rely on Tom Brady every game to bail them out, as he did so brilliantly last week against the Texans.

The defense must start showing some signs that it can work more in tandem with the offense.

“The main thing about this game, is we’re going against probably the best scrambling quarterback in the NFL,” safety and defensive captain Duron Harmon said. “We had some problems last week with Deshaun Watson. So what better test to see if you really got better than going up against the best scrambling quarterback. We’re excited about it. We know Cam is going to give us all kinds of fits. He’s a big challenge for us. But the thing about it, the guys in here are ready for the challenge. We’re excited for the challenge. We get to measure up and see if we’re really better or not.”

As it so happens, Newton is struggling at the moment as he is still feeling the effects of offseason shoulder surgery. He threw three interceptions against the woeful Saints secondary last week. With the 2015 league MVP off his game, this would seem to be a great way for the Patriots defense to get its act together.

With Watson already serving as a warmup act for mobile quarterbacks in last Sunday’s 36-33 win at Gillette, the Patriots should be even more primed to tackle the Panthers star, who currently ranks No. 29 in the NFL in passer rating. Andy Dalton, Joe Flacco, and DeShone Kizer are the three quarterbacks listed below him.

So they’re catching Newton at a good time, although the team wisely isn’t banking on that. From coach Bill Belichick down through the ranks, they pumped up the former No. 1 overall pick.

Given how much trouble they had last week containing a rookie in Watson (22-for-33, 301…

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